• Shies away from setting elections date
• Resolves to meet national, international commitments made by previous govt
• PM Kakar vows to bring perpetrators of May 9 riots to justice
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet at its maiden meeting on Friday decided to reduce the caretaker government’s spending in view of the prevailing economic conditions, and acknowledged that it was also its responsibility not to waste the taxpayers’ money.
Addressing the meeting, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar noted that while Pakistan’s economic challenges were considerable, the interim government would try to ensure financial discipline.
“We have a sense of sanctity of taxpayers’ money, on which we are having this meeting and consuming this water and tea.”
He said people paid taxes so that the government could deliver and provide a secure environment for them.
“So that utmost duty — maybe it is for a month, two, three or whatever the allocated time is — we will demonstrate not through our words but through our actions,” he said.
The cabinet did not decide when the elections would be held in the country as it asserted that conducting the exercise is the sole responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan, but PM Kakar acknowledged the interim set-up did not have a “perpetual mandate” to serve the nation.
The meeting, however, vowed to comply with the commitments made by the previous government at national and international levels, and ensure rule of law and financial discipline during the interim period.
“Holding general elections is the responsibility of ECP and the federal government will fulfil its duty to assist the commission in that regard,” interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi told a post-meeting news conference.
After the meeting, the minister said, he called on Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and apprised him of the government’s commitment about assistance to be extended to the watchdog in holding free elections in the country and implementing the ECP’s recommendations for necessary transfer and posting of officials in this connection.
Mr Solangi said the country would be ultimately run by the elected representatives as was envisaged in the Constitution and the caretaker government would look after the affairs only until the elections are held.
Justifying the first petroleum price hike during the caretaker set-up, he said: “We cannot afford to buy petroleum products at high prices and sell them at low prices. As per the IMF agreement the government cannot subsidise commodities.”
Mr Solangi said poverty and inflation were a reality and nobody could deny that. Increasing petroleum prices causes inflation but the government’s hands are tied due to the IMF’s agreement, he added.
Giving details of the decisions reached at the meeting, he said the cabinet stressed on promoting Sufism to counter extremism, narrowmindedness and intolerance prevailing in society.
PM Kakar, he pointed out, emphasised on building infrastructure in the country.
Answering a question about court cases against the PTI leadership, he said the matter was sub judice, but added that the interim government was not a party to those cases and relevant institutions were performing their duties as per law.
He said it was the responsibility of every government, including the caretaker set-up, to take steps for strengthening economy and improving the law and order situation.
Mr Solangi reiterated that the interim government did not believe in gagging the media and would take steps to ensure freedom of expression in the country.
Prime Minister Kakar while presiding over the cabinet meeting said serving the nation was not the mandate of the interim set-up, but it will do its best in this regard.
“I am very well aware that we are here for an allocated time. We do not have a perpetual mandate to serve this nation,” he added.
The premier said the caretaker set-up will try to take steps aimed at continuity of national and international commitments made by previous governments.
“And in continuation of that, we will try to support new initiatives, whatever the law and Constitution allow us to do,” he said, specifically mentioning the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).
Stressing the need for agricultural reforms, Mr Kakar said when he was growing up, it was always stated that Pakistan was an agricultural country with rich mineral resources.
“Hailing from Balochistan, we would take a lot of pride in our natural and mineral resources. But we never knew what those mineral resources were. But the day has arrived, with the support of all institutions — in which the Pakistan military is in the lead — to support, facilitate, encourage and realise this old national dream,” he added.
Expressing “discomfort and disappointment” over May 9 mayhem, the PM said: “We do not just condemn it, now we are in the role to ensure that justice is being done and whosoever violated the laws on those days will be treated by those laws. There won’t be any favour, there won’t be any fear. We will try to implement with justice and neutrality.”
Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2023