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Sheikh Rashid urges establishment to ‘stay away’ from Punjab by-polls and prove ‘impartiality’

Former interior minister and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid on Saturday asked the “establishment” to “stay away” from the upcoming by-polls in Punjab and prove their “impartiality”.

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“I want to discuss something important with the establishment. Tomorrow is a very important day. I have never seen such an election in the country’s history. I want to request them to stay away from the elections. The nation will not tolerate any rigging or ghunda gardi (thuggery),” he said in a video message posted on Twitter.

“The establishment would have to prove its impartiality in tomorrow’s by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly seats,” he added.

The 20 seats are among the 25 vacated (five reserved) after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualified defecting PTI lawmakers for voting for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz in the Punjab chief minister’s election.

The stakes are especially high because the outcome of the elections will determine who will become chief minister in Punjab, the re-election for which will be held on July 22.

In his message today, Rashid also spoke about the government’s formation of a special ministerial committee to pursue high treason proceedings against top office-holders of the former PTI government, including ex-premier Imran Khan.

“This is a detailed judgement, not a [fresh] judgement. These people, who have been imposed on the nation through one or two extra votes, are foolish,” he said.

He also asked the incumbent government to “not stop” Imran’s path if the nation voted for his party in tomorrow’s polls. “If his path is blocked, a fire will spread that will engulf everyone.”

The former interior minister termed Sunday a “test day for Pakistan’s political stability”.

PTI chief Imran Khan, meanwhile, made another reference to “Mr X and Mr Y” as he sent a message to his team when they contest the Punjab by-elections on Sunday “against PMLN, the state machinery, the biased Election Commission plus Mr X and Mr Y”.

He also put up a passage of a speech by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, known popularly as the “man in the arena” speech.

Separately, PTI secretary general Asad Umar, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad, expressed confidence that PTI would “win the match”.

Teams of PTI workers would be present at every polling station and connected to a central team, he said, adding that lawyers would also be present.

He repeated the party’s claims of rigging and said the PTI was “ready to expose”.

“There is only one message for the public — you have to get out of your homes tomorrow, not just for your candidate or to teach the turncoats a lesson. This is an election for your future and your children’s future,” he added.

On the other hand, Interior Minister Rana Sanullah warned the PTI chairman and party workers to refrain from disrupting tomorrow’s by-polls by inciting riots or violence.

The law will take its due course if anyone tries to sabotage the writ of the state by indulging in unlawful activities, he said.

A day earlier, PTI Chairman Imran, in the last campaign speech, said he would face his rivals “till the last ball” and insisted his party would emerge victorious in the by-polls.

“You have to come out on July 17 in large numbers to support the PTI,” Imran said.

He vowed that all “turncoats” would see themselves “thrashed with the bat” — PTI’s party symbol.

He also warned that the government “would break all records of rigging” and urged the masses to “foil this plot designed by Hamza Shehbaz”.

The ex-premier claimed the PML-N was sensing PTI’s victory, hence “it will resort to rigging to turn the results in their favour”.

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