PESHAWAR: A day after the Election Commi­ssion of Pakistan (ECP) asked for the removal of caretaker provincial minister Shahid Khattak amid reports of his addressing a public meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP), Mr Khattak resigned from his portfolio citing ‘personal commitments’.

“It is stated that I am unable to continue as caretaker provincial minister due to some personal commitments. Therefore, I would like to tender resignation from my portfolio with immediate effect henceforth,” Mr Khattak’s resignation read.

In his resignation addressed to the KP caretaker chief minister Azam Khan, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Mr Khattak thanked Mr Khan for giving him the opportunity to be a part of his team and work under his supervision which gave him a wonderful opportunity to learn from Mr Khan’s experience and vision.

Sources privy to the development, however, said Mr Khattak planned to contest next general elections against former defence minister Pervez Khattak.

“He plans to contest elections for the National Assembly seat as Awami National Party (ANP) candidate against the former federal minister for defence Pervez Khattak,” sources said, adding “his son Jawad Khattak is also believed to be contesting from for the provincial assembly seat”.

In its order issued late on Saturday, the ECP had directed the caretaker CM to remove Shahid Khattak.

The ECP took the decision after receiving a report from the provincial election commissioner of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“The chief minister has received a letter from the Election Commission of Pakistan for removal of Mr Shahid Khattak and under the Constitution and Elections Act we are bound to follow the order,” said provincial information minister Mian Feroze Jamal Shah Kakakhel.

He said they would implement the order, as being a caretaker government, their responsibility was to act in accordance with the directives of the ECP.

Video footage of Mr Khattak addressing a public meeting in his hometown of Nowshera on Friday had gone viral on social media.

The ECP issued two press releases on Saturday. In the first release, it informed that stern notice was taken of Mr Khattak addressing a public meeting and that it had sought a report from the provincial election commissioner to consider further legal action against him.

Later on, another press release was issued, informing that the ECP had ordered the caretaker chief minister to remove Mr Khattak, as he had attended and addressed the public meeting.

Mr Khattak, who is a leader of the ANP and considered a staunch rival of former chief minister Pervez Khattak, has denied addressing any public meeting.

In a statement issued on Sunday, he claimed that the gathering was not a political party’s public meeting but a “khuli kachery,” where participants were invited to raise the problems of their areas.

He claimed that the media had misreported the said meeting as a public meeting of a political party.

Mr Khattak stated that he had a principled stance on “corruption” in various projects during the previous government, including the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), and he would not compromise on his stand at any cost.

He added that he respects the election code of conduct and it was clear to him that the responsibility of a caretaker set-up was to conduct impartial and fair elections.

Meanwhile, the ECP also directed the Punjab caretaker government that none of its members were permitted to participate in any political or electoral activity.

The commission warned that these directives should be strictly followed, and any violation would result in immediate legal action.

It is stated that the commission will not allow any member of the caretaker government or minister to participate in the electoral campaign.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2023

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