• Dismisses possibility of military establishment manipulating election results as ‘absolutely absurd’
• PTI seeks explanation, says election without incarcerated chairman ‘unconstitutional’

KARACHI: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has said “fair” elections are possible without PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his party leaders jailed following violent riots in the country on May 9, Dawn.com reported.

However, the premier also stated that thousands of PTI members, who were not a part of “unlawful activities”, “will be running the political process” and “will be participating in the elections”.

It may be noted that Mr Khan was jailed after conviction in the Toshakhana case, but his conviction was suspended. However, now he is on judicial remand in the cipher case.

The premier’s statement comes days after the Election Commission of Pakistan finally announced that polls in the country would be held in January next year. Major political parties in the country have now began preparations for elections.

PM Kakar dismissed the possibility of the military establishment manipulating the election results to ensure the PTI doesn’t win as “absolutely absurd”, said the Dawn.com report quoting his interview to The Associated Press over the weekend.

He said the ECP would conduct the vote, adding that the chief election commissioner was appointed by Imran Khan himself, so “why would he turn in any sense of the word against him?”

In response to a question whether he would recommend the judiciary to overturn Mr Khan’s conviction and enable him to run in the elections, the prime minister said he wouldn’t interfere with decisions by the judiciary and stressed the judiciary should not be used “as a tool for any political ends”.

“We are not pursuing anyone on a personal vendetta. But yes, we will ensure that the law is appropriate. Anyone, be it Imran Khan or any other politician who violates, in terms of their political behaviour, the laws of the country, then the restoration of the law has to be ensured. We cannot equate that with … political discrimination,” he said.

Talking about PTI allegations pertaining to “threats to democracy” and “de facto military rule in Pakistan”, the PM said the claims were “part and parcel of our political culture”.

He said his government’s working relationship with the military was “very smooth” as well as “very open and candid”.

“We do have challenges of civil-military relationships, I’m not denying that,” he said, “but there are very different reasons for the imbalance”.

According to PM Kakar, the solution was to gradually improve the performance of the civilian institutions “rather than weakening the current military organisation, because that’s not going to solve any of our problems.”

The premier also stated that when the ECP would announce the exact date for elections, his government would provide all kinds of financial, security and other assistance for the polls.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Sunday, the PTI said any elections without Imran would be “unacceptable, unlawful and unconstitutional”.

“The caretaker prime minister’s statement is a manifestation of the insensitivity found in the state structure regarding the Constitution, democracy and national interests,” it stated. “The PM should know that any election conducted without the involvement of Imran Khan or PTI will be unconstitutional, illegal and immoral which the people will never accept.”

Syed Irfan Raza in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2023

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