LONDON / ISLAMABAD: There would not be any organisational or institutional involvement, either in favour of one political group or the other in the upcoming elections, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has said, as his remarks regarding the possibility of elections without PTI chief Imran Khan drew widespread criticism.
On Tuesday, the prime minister was in the UK, where he addressed the Oxford Union and held a presser at the Pakistan High Commission where he fielded several questions from journalists; key amongst which were queries about the treatment of the PTI chief, whether he will be allowed to participate in elections, and whether his transfer from Attock Jail to Adiala has any deeper meaning.
He said his words about Imran Khan’s prospects of contesting the next election were being twisted, and that the law will decide whether he will contest or not.
“What people aren’t understanding is that it is not political. Whatever happens will be under law and due process. I cannot change it even if I wanted to.”
Caretaker PM says PTI not playing ‘parliamentary politics’, those who didn’t participate in May 9 violence free to take part in elections
Earlier, in an interview with TRT World, when the caretaker PM was asked what would happen if PTI supporters did not accept that Imran Khan is not on the ballot and took to the streets to protest, he said: “As far as the protest is concerned, if [it] remains peaceful, it is their basic and democratic right. The government will try to protect the democratic right of any political party… but any kind of vandalism in the name of protest would not be allowed.”
Later, at the press conference, he said: “It is part of our political culture that various parties cry foul, but if international indicators and observers say it is a free and fair election, then it is.”
Speaking to TRT, he said the ouster of Imran Khan was “lawful” as it was carried out constitutionally and without a military coup.
Asked about the alleged involvement of the United States in the ouster of Imran Khan, he called it a conspiracy theory that was used for public consumption.
At the Oxford Union, PM Kakar was asked by members about Mr Khan’s incarceration, the cases against PTI workers, as well as the military’s overbearing presence in Pakistan.
In response, he said that people were in prison over different charges, ranging from vandalism, arson, destruction of public property, and that they would face such charges in any civilised society.
“Why should an exclusive approach be applied to Imran Khan,” he asked.
He said the government commits to a fair election that includes giving PTI space. “PTI is not playing parliamentary politics… if they were… Imran Khan would be the current opposition leader.”
When asked about the army intervening in politics, Mr Kakar said, “There is some civil and military imbalance. But the larger criticism of the Pakistan army is not valid and is out of proportion. A lot of critics rely on hearsay these days.”
Regarding the upcoming elections, Kakar said whatever support is required will be provided by the caretaker set-up, be it “military or paramilitary”.
Out of context
Issuing the original text of the AP interview, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting reproduced the premier’s statement thus: “Kakar said fair elections can take place without Khan or hundreds of members of his party who are jailed because they engaged in unlawful activities including vandalism and arson, a reference to the violence that rocked the country following Khan’s initial arrest in May.”
“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 behavior, the laws of the country, then the restoration of the law has to be ensured. We cannot equate that with … political discrimination.”
The caretaker prime minister said thousands of people in Mr Khan’s party who didn’t engage in unlawful activities “will be running the political process, they will be participating in the elections.”
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023