• Asks people to give Nawaz another chance
• Says Imran had a phobia of opponents

LAHORE: General elections are likely to be held in November — three months after the dissolution of the National Assembly — after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he will hand over the reins to the caretaker set-up next month before the completion of the assembly’s tenure.

“Next month our government will complete its tenure, [but] we will leave before the completion of our tenure and an interim government will come in,” the prime minister said while speaking at a laptop distribution ceremony at the Government College Women’s University in Sialkot on Sunday.

The five-year constitutional term of the incumbent National Assembly will end on August 12 at midnight.

As per law, general elections take place within 60 days if the elected house completes its constitutional tenure of five years. In case of early dissolution, elections are held within 90 days of the dissolution.

Earlier in the day, PM Shehbaz told a youth loan distribution ceremony in Lahore that whatever the verdict of people in the next polls, the PML-N would accept the public mandate. He, however, urged the people to decide after comparing the performance of PML-N with that of the four-year “saga of destruction”.

The premier hinted at the return of Nawaz Sharif to the electoral arena. He promised that if voted back to power, Nawaz Sharif — as the fourth time elected prime minister — would “make Pakistan great”.

“Nawaz Sharif Sahib will turn Pakistan into a progressive state if people provided him another opportunity to lead the country. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the entire leadership of PML-N would change the destiny of the country by putting it on the path of progress and prosperity.”

He said under the leadership of the elder Sharif, they had delivered on the ground and “foiled the conspiracies hatched by the anti-state elements”.

He regretted that Nawaz Sharif was ousted despite the fact that he had “ended hours-long crippling loadshedding, provided laptops and loans to the youth, brought the multi-billion dollars China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, as well as carried out several infrastructure projects”.

Referring to the PTI chair­man, he said Imran Khan “did nothing but victimised his political rivals”.

“He had a phobia of PML-N and other opposition leaders and was bent upon putting them in jails under false cases,” PM Shehbaz said, adding that Nawaz Sharif was accused of being involved in the Panama Papers case but he was handed out punishment on the basis of Iqama (work permit).

“The worst kind of vengeance was unleashed on the opposition and civil servants,” he claimed.

The premier also called out the judiciary for its alleged ‘pro-Imran bias’. Nawaz Sharif regularly appeared before courts while Imran was being granted bail in every other case, he said, adding that the PTI tenure was “tainted with massive corruption scams”.

The premier claimed that at least $3 billion was doled out to ‘influential families’ on “easy terms by the PTI government instead of spending it on the future of the youth”.

Petrol prices cut

Speaking in Sialkot, the prime minister said that the cut in petroleum products’ prices announced by the finance minister a day ago was due to the agreement signed with the IMF.

He said the agreement strengthened the rupee against the dollar which in turn made the purchase of oil cheaper and the government in turn gave relief to people by reducing the prices of petroleum products.

Referring to the laptops being distributed among the students, he said that 100,000 machines would be provided in the financial year 2023-24 and the ones being distributed at present had been allocated in the financial year 2022-23 that ended on June 30.

Separately, Minister for Railways and Aviation Saad Rafique called on PM Shehbaz in Lahore on Sunday, the PPI news agency reported.

During the meeting, issues pertaining to the ministries as well as the political situation of the country were discussed. The minister apprised the prime minister about the progress on the outsourcing of airports and PIA reforms.

The PM was also briefed on the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and China on the restructuring of the National Aviation Policy and the ML-1 railways project.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2023

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