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KARACHI, July 9: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Saturday declared that local body elections would not be postponed and his government would not object to foreign observers monitoring the elections which, he promised, would be free, fair and transparent and all stakeholders would be provided a level playing field.

“If anyone wants to come to observe these elections, they will be welcome. We will follow election commission’s rules,” said the prime minister during a news conference at the Governor’s House after reviewing the law and order situation in the province, especially in Karachi, matters connected with the local body elections and the overall flood situation in the country.

Flanked by Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan and Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Mr Aziz reiterated his government’s belief in providing a level playing field to everyone and stressed the need for continuous dialogue among the stakeholders.

The prime minister said that although these elections would be held on a non-party basis, supporters of political parties would vote in these polls and therefore mutual understanding and dialogue were necessary.

The federal government, he said, would assist the provincial governments in the maintenance of law and order and other matters, if they so desired.

About apprehensions over law and order situation before and during the local government elections, especially in Karachi, Mr Aziz was of the view that it had improved in the city but a lot more was needed to be done.

He said that concerns with regard to LG elections were also deliberated upon in Saturday’s meeting but it was noted that most of these were of local or provincial nature. He said that Karachi was the nerve centre of the country’s economy and therefore it was necessary that all concerned evolved mutual understanding and cooperative relationship through dialogue.

Replying to a question he dispelled the impression that local body elections could be postponed due to floods and said that nothing of the sort was even thought of.

Asked whether army would be deployed to oversee the elections, the prime minister said that whichever institution’s help was to be sought for ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections would be examined and decided by the provincial government.

When the prime minister’s attention was drawn to his public meeting in Thatta ahead of the forthcoming local body elections in which a certain PML(Q) group was striving for dominance, and was asked whether other political parties would also be provided similar opportunities to campaign for their proxies in the LG elections, Mr Shaukat Aziz was careful in replying. He said that governments continue to function and this meeting was planned much earlier. He pointed out that in Thatta he had asked people to vote for honest people and had not campaigned for anyone because he was aware of the intricacies. If others wanted to do the same, they could do so within the parameters of rules and regulations announced by the election commission.

With regard to the issue of ministers and legislators contesting LG elections the prime minister said there was precedence in this regard and could not say much on that.

He said the local government elections, Muslim League’s unity and matters related to the provincial government were discussed with an important ally. He expressed satisfaction over the meeting in which provincial governor and chief minister were also present together with federal minister Abdul Razak Thaheem.

When his attention was drawn towards the negative impact of increase in POL prices, Mr Aziz said the government was compelled to do so because of a surge in oil prices in the international market. He said that whenever the situation permitted the government would provide relief to the people.

With regard to import of sugar and wheat, he said the government had taken steps to provide these items at slightly less price from the utility stores. The focus was on supply to keep the prices down. He said that demand and supply would determine the quantum of import.

The prime minister told a questioner that new profit rates of National Savings Scheme would be announced on Monday.

He also dispelled reports of any change in the Sindh government and termed it a mere figment of imagination. He told a questioner that in the context of law and order, the acrimonious exchanges between rival political parties and groups in Karachi were also discussed. He said that the APC convened by the MQM was a commendable effort.

Replying to a question, Mr Aziz said that new dams for water storage would be built after consensus and declared that the report of the Abbasi Commission on water storage was awaited before a decision could be taken.

Referring to the flood situation, he said that if the country had big dams, the water which would now go into the sea could have been stored to meet future requirements.

“We will certainly build dams but when, where and which one first, no decision has been taken as yet,” said Mr Aziz, adding that any decision in this regard would be taken with the consensus of all and after removal of their reservations and apprehensions.

Regarding the NFC award, he said work on deciding the formula was continuing and it would be announced after taking all the provinces into confidence. It would be decided in the spirit of give-and-take.

He recalled a meeting of all chief ministers with the president who had told them to give him a consensus formula which would be implemented.

“We want to create an environment which may lead to unity and cohesion among all and the government will take all the four provinces along,” he said.

Regarding the flood situation, the prime minister referred to protective and relief measures taken by the government and said that efforts were being made to rescue marooned people and evacuate them to safe places besides providing them other relief.

He expressed satisfaction over timely completion of repairs in the Sukkur barrage otherwise the situation would have been very precarious owing to the deluge. He lauded efforts of the army, police and all other agencies who were engaged in search, rescue and relief effort.