LONDON: Pressure from Pakistan’s judiciary won’t influence the outcome of upcoming general elections this year, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Wednesday, adding he hoped the elections would be free and fair.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court disqualified deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) from holding party office for life amid an ongoing corruption trial.

“We hope elections will be fair and free as the country can’t afford any crisis as a result, but recently there are some concerns due to the judicial activism and how the National Accountability Bureau has been pursuing cases against only one party,” the interior minister told Reuters, speaking at the Pakistani High Commission in London.

He also highlighted complaints by media groups that they had not been allowed to broadcast. But he did not think such activities would affect the election’s outcome: “In the past we have seen attempts to influence the process but when millions of people vote it is very difficult to control the outcome.”

Mr Iqbal said the general elections would most likely be held in the last week of July and he expected the PML-N to win on the back of its economic record.

The minister expects a GDP growth rate of 6.2 per cent in 2019 and 6.4pc in 2020, up from 5.8pc in 2018.

He said he did not think Pakistan would go to the IMF this year but would bridge the funding gap via other means, such as improved exports performance, economic growth, more foreign direct investment and remittances by overseas Pakistanis.

He regretted that attempts by Western countries to impose conditions on Pakistan’s agenda in fighting terrorism were unhelpful as it allowed extremists to argue the government was acting as a stooge of foreign powers. “It denies us our space to move against these groups in full force,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018

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