• Kakar says pledges about jobs, housing contingent upon good economy
• Govt officials barred from travelling abroad till polls
• CCI approves gas licensing policies

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has claimed that no political party has presented a plan in their manifesto to fix the economy and reassured that there was no reason to justify any delay in general elections.

Separately, the PM has barred federal ministers and government officials from travelling abroad till the elections.

In an interview aired on the newly launched TV channel Aik News, the caretaker PM said political parties’ candidates were canvassing, and all rumours regarding the delay in general elections would fall to rest on the evening of February 8.

He said the key focus should be on improving the economy but added that, unfortunately, no political party had yet come up with an agenda to fix the chronic economic issues.

The PM added that the claims made by political parties in their campaigns regarding jobs, shelters, cheap electricity, food security, and others were contingent upon a stable economy.

“Political parties need to come up with a plan for revenue generation and widening the tax net.”

He cited the example of the 91 per cent tax-to-GDP ratio in Scandinavian countries and said Pakistan’s ratio stood at just 9pc.

Enhanced taxation would also make the government accountable to the masses, he added.

Regarding the grumblings about rigging before or after the elections, he said the parliament should learn lessons from the past and address the flaws in legislation regarding elections.

The observers would monitor, and local and international media would report on the activity, the PM said, assuring that as per the regional standards, elections would “by and large be free and fair”.

He claimed that political parties were also involved in poll rigging by forging ID cards and casting votes of deceased persons.

The voting time would be from 9am to 5pm on Feb 8, and everyone should use their constitutional right to vote to ensure a good turnout, Mr Kakar emphasised.

Responding to a question about his foreign visits, Mr Kakar recalled that soon after assuming the office, he attended the UN General Assembly session “which couldn’t have been ignored”.

His later interactions were in Europe, where he had a stopover for plane refuelling.

About his other trips, the PM said he got the opportunity to interact with world leaders and sign bilateral agreements during his visits to the BRI Forum in China, the ECO Summit and the COP28.

CCI meeting

The PM also chaired a Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting, which approved the Exploration and Protection Policy-2024 and “Tight Gas Policy-2024” to allow gas exploration companies to continue their work on old and current leases and licences.

The approval has been given to “encourage the exploration companies” and overcome the current gas shortage.

The meeting was apprised that there are 35 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, which require extensive exploration through modern technology.

On the recommendation of the petroleum division, the council approved the hike in gas price from 10 to 25pc for its sale by a third party on a commercial basis.

Bar on foreign trips

Separately, the PM withdrew permissions granted to federal ministers, advisers, and relevant officials for foreign visits until election.

“The prime minister has been pleased to withdraw all permissions for foreign visits, official or private, granted to the federal ministers, advisers and special assistants to the PM, and all federal officers with immediate effect,” said a notification issued by the cabinet division on Monday.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2024


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