• Urges appointment of ‘neutral’ person to lead caretaker set-up
• Defends ‘hybrid regime’; says May 9 riots aimed at removal of army chief

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Amid widespread speculations, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday ruled out the appointment of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as the caretaker prime minister, saying a neutral person would be selected to lead the interim set-up to make upcoming general elections transparent.

The premier, who also heads the PML-N, made these remarks on a Geo News programme, Jirga. The remarks came after rumours that Mr Dar would be appointed as the interim prime minister.

“A neutral person should be appointed to this position so that no one could question the elections’ results,” PM Shehbaz said, agreeing with his coalition partners who favoured a non-partisan politician to lead the caretaker set-up.

According to the PM, the caretaker set-up would be agreed upon after consultation with allied parties, PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, and the leader of opposition in the National Assembly Raja Riaz.

“I assure you there will be a very efficient interim government at the Centre,” he added.

It may be noted that a bill to empower the caretaker set-up to take policy decisions was recently passed by the parliament. PM Shehbaz said he will dissolve the National Assembly a few days before the expiry of his government’s term on Aug 12, which would allow the ECP to conduct polls within 90 days.

The PM said he had no intention to delay elections not even on the issue of the new census. “If notification regarding the new census is issued and even if the new census is notified, it would be up to the Election Commission of Pakistan to handle the issue,” he added.

The PM said his party will make adjustments with any other political party, including PPP and JUI-F, for polls. He said the ruling PML-N will field its own candidates where there will be no need for seat adjustment.

‘Plot to overthrow COAS’

PM Shehbaz revealed that the “May 9 conspiracy” was hatched against Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Syed Asim Munir to trigger a ‘civil war’ in the country.

“Being a prime minister, I am saying this on the basis of 100 per cent evidence that the May 9 conspiracy was aimed at overthrowing the army chief,” he said. “On that day, there was a plan to create anarchy and civil war in the country,” he added.

The PM said that those who had attacked military installations would be tried in military courts while those involved in ransacking other public properties would face prosecution in other courts.

The prime minister said transparent accountability was imperative against those who had hatched a conspiracy against the country.

About forthcoming elections, he said, Nawaz Sharif will be the next premier if his party came to power. He said Nawaz Sharif will soon return to the country, adding he was sent abroad on medical grounds on the basis of a medical report prepared on the directives of former prime minister Imran Khan.

The premier again called for unity among political forces and that they must agree on a Charter of Economy. “We had difficulty reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, but now the nation has to change its mode of living. On the other hand, the new government will have to utilise all resources and do hard work to bring the country out of the economic crisis. If we fail to do so we will never be remembered as a nation,” he added.

Answering a question about why he was involving the army chief in major initiatives of his government, the PM said the “hybrid model of PTI government” was used to malign opposition, create hatred among people, annoy friendly countries, [and] jam the wheel of the economy.

“On the other hand, in our system we want agriculture reforms, to impart IT training to all students, dig out our natural resources and ensure that all state institutions work within their own domains so that all will work together to rid the country of crisis,” he added.

‘Bad governance’

Talking to the media and speaking at the soft launch of the Haveli Bahadur Shah power project and a couple of other schemes at the Governor House Lahore, the premier said national economy was destroyed during the four-year rule of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

He criticised the “bad governance” and “criminal negligence” of the four-year rule of the Imran Khan government that led the country to the present state of affairs.

He was also critical of the PTI regime for suspending work on development projects only because these had been started by Nawaz Sharif, causing financial losses worth billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

“The bad and inefficient working of the past government and its criminal negligence (towards economic issues) steered Pakistan to the present condition.”

The Haveli Bahadur Shah was a project initiated by the Nawaz Sharif government, so work on it was suspended by Imran Niazi, which caused a loss of Rs77bn to the national kitty because of increase in the project cost, he said.

Power generation from the project, initiated in 2016, was to start in 2019. But work on it was stalled “due to criminal negligence of Imran Niazi and lack of interest of his government”, he added.

He asked who would be held accountable for such blunders and why the judiciary did not take a suo motu notice over the negligence.

Clarifying that he did not mean victimisation of anyone through this demand, PM Shehbaz highlighted the need for a transparent accountability system to fix responsibility for all such failures whether these were committed during a dictatorship or democratic government.

He bitterly recalled that the visit of Chinese president was postponed due to PTI’s sit-in back in 2014 as despite multiple attempts to convince Imran Khan to put off his protest he refused to vacate even D-Chowk in Islamabad to clear the route for the travel of the foreign dignitary.

He said the Chinese president then visited Pakistan a year later in 2015 and the CPEC agreement was signed. Under the CPEC agreement, the prime minister said, power-generating projects were to be executed in the country – two of them by the federal and two by the Punjab government.

“In 2017, we (as Punjab chief minister) decided to execute the thermal power projects — 1,150MW Bahadur Shah and 1,050MW Bhikki project. The Haveli Bahadur Shah project was to be completed in 2019 according to the agreement. But, due to the delay, the project cost Rs77 billion more.”

The prime minister said the Medical City project would be completed with all allied facilities and would be on a par with the world’s renowned health projects like the Pakistan Kidney & Liver Institute was ranked best among Asia’s top institutes.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2023



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