LAHORE: The politicians having loyalties with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan will be allowed to contest the upcoming polls, announced caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar here on Tuesday.

“The loyalists of Imran Khan will take part in elections, and also those who left him. There has been no move in place to ban the PTI,” the premier said in a talk with journalists.

Mr Kakar’s statement has come in the backdrop of reports that the PTI may not be allowed to take part in the elections in the wake of May 9 events, especially when two parties – Istehkham-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) led by sugar baron Jahangir Khan Tareen and PTI-Parliamentarians headed by Pervez Khattak – have been carved out of Imran Khan’s party, which have also launched their election campaigns.

Some senior leaders of the PML-N, which has at least four “sympathisers” in the caretaker cabinet, had earlier claimed that the PTI’s symbol ‘bat’ would not be on the ballot paper in the upcoming polls.

To a question whether the symbol of ‘bat’ would be on the ballot papers, Mr Kakar said: “So far the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has not placed any ban on the PTI, so how come the caretakers can commit such illegality [on their own]. It is the ECP’s mandate whether to allow the PTI symbol [on ballot paper] or not. Currently, there is no such proposal under consideration [by the interim government],” he remarked.

When asked that some mainstream parties — PTI and PPP — are complaining about non-provision of a “level playing field” ahead of the polls, the premier said: “Our policy is that all registered parties have equal rights and opportunity in the forthcoming elections.”

Asked why the ECP was reluctant to announce the polls date, Kakar said: “To announce the elections date is the exclusive mandate of the ECP,” adding it was not the “right attitude” to ask the ECP for polls date.

The ECP has announced that elections would be held in the last week of January 2024. However, it has yet to give any specific date in this regard.

When asked that some students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) gave him ‘tough time’ during Question-Answer session on Monday, the premier said : “LUMS students had fun like we used to have but my replies to them are also available on the social media.”

During his interaction with them on Monday, some LUMS students had questioned the prime minister’s late arrival at the varsity, his government’s failure to ensure a level playing fields to all parties and stringent action against the PTI workers in the wake of May 9 events.

About the next round of negotiations with the IMF, PM Kakar said a delegation of the monetary fund was scheduled to visit Pakistan soon and his government was fully prepared in this regard.

“Hopefully the talks on the second tranche of IMF will be concluded successfully,” he said.

As the deadline for the deportation of illegal aliens staying in Pakistan ended (on Oct 31), the interim premier clarified that the registered Afghan refugees wouldn’t be sent back. He said the Afghan transit trade restrictions helped revive the industry in the country.

He expressed the hope that the new government that would take charge after polls would continue the rational policies of the caretakers.

He condemned brutalities being committed in Gaza by Israeli forces and demanded immediate end to the war there.

During his two-day Lahore visit, PM Kakar also met Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman at the Governor House on Tuesday.

The governor drew the attention of the premier to the issue of reduction in annual funding by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to the universities.

The PM also visited the Mayo Hospital and the southern portion (SL-3) of Lahore Ring Road. He was told that the 8km-long southern portion of the SL-3 would be completed by Jan 30, 2024.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2023

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