Kakar allays poll delay fears, assures free, fair elections on Feb 8

— PM endorses ECP’s denial of any delay in the polls

— Says elections would gauge popularity of any political leader

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said that the nation should not have any doubts about the general elections scheduled to be held on February 8, 2024.

“I have no doubt about it… The concerns are often associated with our political system. We have a history of our own,” he remarked in an interview with Independent Urdu published on Wednesday.

The prime minister expressed the hope that the elections would be held free and fair.

To a question, he said he did not consider the general elections of the 70s as a benchmark either as many people had different opinions about those elections.

“Of course, they were very transparent. At that time, it was already decided before the elections which way they would go to, so I consider it a problem,” he added.

He said as the arrangements were in place, he was hopeful that the caretaker government would be able to give results in a relatively better way.

The prime minister said that he endorsed the Election Commission’s denial of the any delay in the polls.

“They (Election Commission) have to conduct (elections). We are with them.”

He said as per Election Commission, the election schedule will cover 56 days, based on which the schedule should be announced by December 14.

Asked about the notions of elections being associated with decline in Imran Khan’s popularity and his exclusion from the electoral process, the prime minister termed it political analyses.

However, the elections would judge the popularity of any political leader, he commented.

To a question about the participation of Imran Khan or his party in the general elections, he that there was no restriction on him yet. “However, if something unusual comes up, I can’t say anything about it yet. As of today, they are in a position to contest elections and they will contets.”

About the disappearances and resurfacing of PTI leaders, the prime minister said such people went into hiding fearing the arrest for their involvement in attacks on state institutions on May 9.

He said while in hiding, they would have a second thought to leave PTI or politics which was their personal decision.

He said that no evidence of ‘state coercion’ had come to his knowledge, and even none of those people had spoken of ‘state coercion’. Until then, it’s just allegations, he added.

Prime Minister Kakar disagreed with the view that the decision of May 9 arsons should be left to the people for elections. He also rejected the allegations of not having a level playing field.

Coming to the economic situation, he expressed his satisfaction with his government’s efforts so far to improve the national economy.

“They will leave the blueprint for the rest of the work to the next government,” he remarked.

Discussing the PIA, he rubbished the allegations of any malpractice in the privatisation process and said such conspiratorial assumptions had brought the country to that extent.

He said that expert advisors had been appointed for privatization.

“These are not union level talks. Best practices are being implemented.

They will advise in accordance with the global market trend. They can be audited even 50 years from now,” the prime minister commented.

Discussing the repatriation of illegal foreigners from Pakistan, he said those having no travel document would have to go back, though they can be back after obtaining the visa.

In response to a question regarding the phased evacuation, Prime Minister Kakar said that it was the discretionary power of the government. We believe that it needed to be done at once to show the seriousness of the government,” he remarked.

To a question, he told the interviewer that there was no formal negotiations with the Afghan Taliban at present.

“Our policy regarding TTP is clear. We consider them as an enemy of this society and state. We believe that fighting them is our survival, and we will fight till the last extent for the survival of this state,” he commented.

He denied the impression that Pakistan had any role in the Afghan Taliban’s return to power.

Coming to the Israeli aggression on Gaza, the prime minister said a lot could have been done, but Pakistan was still trying to establish an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian corridor. There is always something that can be improved, he remarked.

He said that if the world had stood with the OIC and other countries, the pressure on Israel could have been increased.

He said on the sidelines of the COP 28 in Dubai, he discussed the issue in detail with the King of Jordan, US Senator Kerry, Muhammad bin Zayed and the Crown Prince of Kuwait.

Prime Minister Kakar said expressed the fear that if continues, the Israeli aggression could also impact the entire Gulf and the world.

About the rumors in the country about establishing relations with Israel before October 7, he said that no such discussion was ever made at any level within the government.

Prime Minister Kakar, who recently returned after attending the COP 28 summit, he said that funds under Loss and Damage Fund were yet to be allocated.

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