ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, on Thursday said that the caretaker government would do its utmost to ensure free, fair, transparent and peaceful general elections.
In an interview with the state television Pakistan Television (PTV), he said there were concerns that the elections could be delayed over election forms, delimitation of constituencies and issues owing to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) reforms. “However, the elections would not be delayed over any legal issues as these can and will be settled,” he added.
The minister said that the Supreme Court (SC) solved the issue by ordering the compulsory attachment of an affidavit with the nomination forms. This also solved the objections made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as well as the candidates.
Barrister Zafar said that the delimitation of constituencies was necessary as the constituencies should be compact and not in the shape of islands. “There were some mistakes in the delimitation of constituencies which needed to be rectified. Delimitation was important, if it was not done, it would deprive the voters of their right,” stated Zafar.
He said that according to the constitution, the elections should be held within 60 days and that the caretaker government would facilitate the ECP but it would only look into short-term issues and not take permanent decisions as it was not their mandate to take long-term decisions.
Talking about security in elections, he said that the armed forces and other security forces would fulfil their constitutional obligations if the need arises.
He further said that all the political parties would be given a levelled playing field to run their campaign in the elections.
“Article 19 of the constitution gave us the fundamental right of freedom of expression. As per that article, nobody can give statements against the army and judiciary or behave indecently and immorally,” he added.
He said that information would be taken from the Ministry of Water and Power regarding electric load shedding and all the facts and figures would be put before the public.
“The cabinet extensively discussed the issue of the economy,” he said adding, “Our economy has potential and we can go a long way.”
The minister said that a judgment about fair polls would be possible to make after the elections are over, besides adding that the caretaker government was willing to listen to the criticism as it would promote better performance. “At the end, we want that our conduct of elections should be appreciated,” said Zafar.
In response to a question, Zafar said that law and order was a provincial subject and the federal government would continuously consult with the provincial governments on daily basis. He informed that the Federal Cabinet had met on Thursday to discuss the economy, law and order, upcoming general election, legal issues facing the ECP and power load shedding in detail.
Furthermore, he said that under the FATA reforms, members of provincial assemblies in FATA would be elected after one year and could then cast votes to elect the chief minister. Elections in Balochistan could not be put off due to weather, as in July there would only be a difference of around two degrees centigrade as compared to the weather in June and August.
In response to a question about court cases against politicians, Zafar said that trials should be conducted according to provisions in the constitution. “We will not interfere in the cases. We want that everybody is treated fairly,” he commented.
The minister advised that as a state broadcaster, PTV should give equal time to all the political parties. Additionally, political parties should be consulted on matters related to elections. If anybody comes with a complaint, the caretaker government would respond and resolve the issue.
“Institutions should be empowered,” he said adding, “If the institutions were not empowered, they could not hold others accountable. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should investigate and prosecute others but if it was doing something wrong, it should also be held accountable.”
To a question about recent attacks on journalists, he said the incidents occurred during a democratic era and that it should be debated over, while the causes of such attacks should be ascertained as attacks on journalists were not acceptable.
To a question about the formation of the caretaker government, the caretaker federal minister answered that this arrangement suited Pakistan even though Bangladesh ended the system of caretaker government in 1992, while Malaysia was also considering the pros and cons of this system.