Railways Minister Azam Swati on Monday said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja was speaking the opposition’s language to “mess around” with the government, which was standing its ground like an “iron wall”.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, Swati said: “Today, you [the CEC] are speaking the opposition’s language … and messing around with the government. We are standing as an iron wall so stop us if you can.”
He said the government had to swallow a “bitter pill” on the CEC’s appointment to preserve the sanctity of this “constitutional institution”, referring to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). “I don’t want to and won’t reveal how you [CEC] were appointed,” Swati said.
“If we didn’t respect the ECP, we would have never appointed you,” he said, adding that the government confirmed his appointment to abide by the Constitution and protect the ECP’s dignity despite knowing that he was allegedly close with the Sharifs.
Swati said the government only wanted uncontroversial, fair and free elections and a system which “future generations can’t point fingers at”.
He questioned why the CEC had made no progress on pilot programmes as ordered previously by the Supreme Court or the parliament through the Elections Act 2017.
“I again remind you Sikandar Sultan Raja sahab that only the one who accepts defeat, loses. Come and see whether the law and the Constitution are greater or your own being.”
The railways minister continued to lash out at the CEC and asked him on “whose instructions are you destroying such a great institution”.
“I, this nation and overseas Pakistanis want to ask you this.”
Regarding the notice sent to him by the ECP for his tirade against the institution, Swati questioned how many such similar notices had been sent to other political leaders from the opposition.
Responding to a question on whether the government was ready to sit down with the ECP, Swati clarified: “We don’t have a quarrel with the ECP but with Raja Sultan.”
According to the railways minister, the entire purpose of the press conference was to send this message: “Raja sahab you cannot violate the law or the Constitution […] When the parliament passes its voice through a law then under the leadership of [Prime Minister] Imran Khan, we will [bring] a fantastic [electoral] system.
“You will buy the [electronic voting] machines and you will also do work. We will go to the Supreme Court if we need to.”