The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has announced a nationwide protest against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) scheduled for Sunday, March 10. The protest is a response to the ECP’s decision of depriving Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) – wherein elected PTI lawmakers have taken refuge after being disallowed to contest the general elections on the party’s electoral symbol – of reserved seats and their allocation to PML-N and PPP instead.

Addressing the media oustside Adiala Jail where PTI founder Imran Khan is incarcerated on Tuesday, party leaders including Sher Afzal Marwat, Shandana Gulzar, Atif Khan, and Shehryar Afridi announced their dissatisfaction with the ECP’s ruling. They accused the commission of diverting the mandate given to PTI by the voters to rival parties, specifically the PML-N and PPP.

The leaders argued that the allocation of reserved seats to other parties contradicted the will of the people who had voted for PTI. They claimed that the ECP’s decision was a blatant misuse of power and announced their intention to hold a nationwide protest against this alleged injustice.

The PTI leaders further criticised the state of Pakistan’s economy, highlighting its dependence on foreign remittances and accusing the Sharif family of sending their wealth abroad. They claimed that with the support of overseas Pakistanis, the country could generate quick revenue, emphasising the need for a change in leadership.

In a bold move, the leaders demanded that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conduct an audit of the election process. They also challenged the legitimacy of the Shehbaz Sharif government, suggesting that if it was deemed legitimate, it should be granted loans.

Addressing the imprisonment of PTI leader Imran Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, the leaders claimed that she was being kept in solitary confinement. They asserted Imran Khan’s refusal to make any deals and his determination to stay in jail for seven years.

Sher Afzal Marwat highlighted the opposition’s unity in protests, promising a historic demonstration against the ECP in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, with himself leading the protest in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Earlier in the day, PTI leader and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser announced a nationwide movement against the alleged “stealing” of PTI’s mandate in the general elections held on February 8. Qaiser emphasised the party’s commitment to launching a movement within the legal and constitutional framework.

The PTI’s move comes after the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) submitted a resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat, seeking the release of PTI’s founding chairman, Imran Khan, and other incarcerated party leaders. The resolution also demanded an end to the alleged abuse of the law and the termination of political and illegal cases against PTI members.

Qaiser highlighted that the party “will not back down as our war is not for [the survival] of just our politics but for the nation.” He further emphasised how the PTI did not believe in the “fake government” led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“Our first demand is that all the institutions should stay within their limits according to the Constitution,” said Qaiser, adding that the judiciary should not come “under pressure but make independent decisions.”

Moreover, the SIC’s resolution stated that the cases against Imran should be terminated immediately, he should be released, and the abuse of the law should be stopped.

The resolution further mentioned that the cases filed against all members of the PTI are political and illegal.

According to the resolution PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Parvez Elahi, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Omar Sarfraz Cheema, Sanam Javed, Ejaz Chaudhry, Mehmood-ur- Rasheed and journalists Imran Riaz and Asad Toor should also be released.

Protests against poll ‘rigging’

Ahead of the vote for the country’s next prime minister, the PTI staged nationwide protests on March 2 against alleged rigging in the February 8 general elections. During the demonstrations, clashes with police resulted in the rounding up of some activists of the former ruling party.

Amid fervent chants, the PTI loyalists praised former prime minister Imran Khan while casting doubt on the integrity of the elections and alleging manipulation. The demonstrators demanded justice and the release of both the PTI founder and fellow party members.

On Feb 3, PTI leader and lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat said that the party has moved the Supreme Court against rigging in the February 8 general elections.

Speaking to the media, Marwat said he filed a petition in the apex court against poll fraud, adding that the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and other members of the election body has also been challenged.

In a media talk outside Adiala jail, Qaiser said Shehbaz had a ‘minority stake’ in the elections and the people never gave him the mandate for premiership.

“The PML-N and PPP should show some grace and step aside from the government,” he said while censuring PML-N’s Ishaq Dar and his handling of the economy during his previous stints as finance minister.

“The PPP is telling the people that they are not a part of the government […] but you are taking the post of Senate chairman on their [PML-N’s] vote,” he lamented.

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