• At farewell for allies, PM Shehbaz touts his govt’s economic achievements; counters criticism over being ‘establishment’s man’
• Final round of meetings with allied parties to begin today; PPP leader decries plan to hold polls under new census
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday revealed that he will dissolve the National Assembly on Aug 9, three days before the incumbent assembly’s term is scheduled to end.
The premier shared this information at a dinner reception hosted in honour of the ruling allies at the Prime Minister’s House, a source who attended the event told Dawn.
Since the National Assembly would be dissolved before time, this means that general elections are to be held within 90 days.
The Constitution provides that if the assembly completes its tenure, elections are to be held in 60 days, but in case of premature dissolution — which will be the case here — this period is extended to 90 days.
At the reception, the PM apprised the participants that the ruling PML-N had finalised consultations within the party and the premier will begin a final round of discussions with allies on the caretaker set-up today (Friday), a process which is expected to take at least three days.
A meeting with allies on the caretaker set-up is also expected to be held today (Friday) through Zoom. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also held a lengthy meeting with the PM on this issue, the source said.
At the dinner, the prime minister apprised his allies about the performance of the coalition government and claimed that the government had increased revenue collection by 13 per cent in 15 months as more than 1.3 million new taxpayers were included in the tax net.
PM Shehbaz claimed in the power sector recoveries remained over 90 per cent. However, it may be noted that the circular debt posted an 18 per cent — Rs393 billion — increase in the past 11 months.
The PM said in the IT sector significant progress was witnessed during the last four months and added that the total volume of IT exports went up to $2.6 billion during the last fiscal year.
Total foreign investment remained at $1.45 billion during the fiscal year 2022-23, he said, hoping with the establishment of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) more foreign investment would be fetched.
The prime minister said with the Rs1.8 trillion Kissan Package, the government has met 99 per cent of targets. He said the government had saved the country from being default and comprehensive policies have been devised for the welfare of the people.
The reception was attended by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, PPP leaders Yousuf Raza Gilani, MQM Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, JUI-F leader Asad Mehmood, Balochistan Awami Party leaders Khalid Magsi and Senator Ahmed Khan, Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) Chairman Shahzain Bugti, Aslam Bhootani, Mohsin Dawar and others.
Earlier in the day, the prime minister listed reasons why he was taking Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Syed Asim Munir along on major issues and initiatives.
It has been observed for the last few days that the COAS accompanied the PM at different occasions and ceremonies.
“People taunt me, calling me the establishment’s man. But this doesn’t bother me. Why? Because […] I did not intend to get any personal gains,” Dawn.com quoted the premier as saying.
“We will take the country forward together. There doesn’t need to be a complete unanimity on every issue but through consultations, we will set targets and priorities,” the prime minister said at the inauguration ceremony of the Bhara Kahu Bypass in Islamabad.
PPP opposes polls on new census
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Water Resources Syed Khursheed Shah expressed reservations over the PM’s decision to hold forthcoming general elections as per the new census. He was of the view that the new census required new delimitations which was not possible in three months.
The PPP, which is one of the major allies in the ruling coalition, also disagreed with the idea of selecting a caretaker prime minister from any political party. In a statement, the PPP leader said the PPP has finalised five names for the post of caretaker prime minister. He, however, added that any other name could also be considered for the coveted slot.
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2023