ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Thursday that the next general elections would be conducted by “aliens”, not the caretaker government.

He said consultation with Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had almost been completed on the issue of caretaker prime minister, adding that no name of any retired army general had been proposed for the office.

“Elections will be held by aliens, but even then we [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] will participate in it,” the prime minister said in an informal chat with journalists during a reception hosted by Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for members of the lower house.

Mr Abbasi’s words about “aliens holding election” echoed the remarks made by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif two days ago: “Our contest is not with Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan but with the aliens.”

PM Abbasi’s remarks indicate that the ruling party has some reservations over transparency of general elections which are just around the corner.

Caretaker set-up

Talking about the caretaker set-up, the PM said the government would accept any name for caretaker prime minister on which the opposition insisted and the opposition would also respond reciprocally. He said the issue of caretaker prime minister was not so important but it was being given undue importance.

Responding to a question, Mr Abbasi said a retired judge or bureaucrat or a politician could become caretaker prime minister.

He said the caretaker set-up would be installed for 60 days to conduct elections. “Elections will be held in 60 days (after dissolution of the assemblies) as there is no option of conducting them in 90 days,” he added. Mr Abbasi reaffirmed confidence in the leadership of PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif who has been disqualified from holding any public office by the Supreme Court for lifetime. “The future of Nawaz Sharif is bright,” the PM said.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2018