ISLAMABAD, May 3: Again scotching rumours about delay in elections, caretaker Prime Minister retired Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso made it clear on Friday that the interim set-up would not accept an extension in its tenure under any circumstances.

In a televised address, he assured the nation that free, fair, transparent, impartial and peaceful elections would be held on May 11. “This is the mandate of the caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan. The caretaker government will take all necessary steps to achieve this objective.”

On completion of the electoral process, he said, power would be transferred to elected representative by the caretaker government without any delay.

Paying tribute to political leaders and workers enthusiastically participating in the electoral process, he noted that this year’s elections had an extraordinary significance for the country. “It is facing internal and external challenges which can be overcome only by an elected government.”

Mr Khoso’s remarks came days after Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani brought rumour-churning mills to a halt by saying that there should be no misgivings and doubts about the polls, and showed that the caretaker government and military establishment were on the same page as far as holding of timely polls was concerned.

The caretaker prime minister said he was addressing the nation at a very important juncture when people were going to exercise their right to vote. “It is right of every Pakistani to express his opinion through… vote. We will endeavour to enable a voter to cast his vote according to his choice and with freedom. We will ensure that the sanctity of the vote is maintained. I have instructed all government departments and officials to remain impartial.”

Terming maintenance of law and order and security as a priority of the caretaker government, he said no one would be allowed to disturb peace and play with the life and property of people. He deplored acts of terrorism in Balochistan, Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Sindh in which innocent people had lost their lives.

Condemning terrorism, Mr Khoso said measures were being taken to control the scourge. “Although according to the constitution, maintenance of law and order falls under the domain of provincial governments, I am in touch with caretaker chief ministers and law enforcement agencies to ensure that electoral process goes on peacefully,” he said.

The government had prepared plans for deployment of army and a quick action force to meet any eventuality during the elections, the caretaker premier said. A special cell had been set up in the interior ministry to collect intelligence reports and share them with provincial governments and law enforcement agencies. “This cell is also empowered to take decisions for timely action if needed.”

Steps would be taken to improve security at sensitive polling stations and monitor polling process there, he added.

“I am convinced that an independent and impartial election commission is capable of meeting any challenge,” Mr Khoso said, adding that the federal and provincial governments were extending cooperation to the ECP.

The appointment of a caretaker prime minister from Balochistan would cast a far-reaching impact and help remove sense of deprivation from among the people of the province and promote national harmony, he said.

Referring to problems being faced by people because of electricity loadshedding, he said he had ordered the Ministry of Finance to urgently release Rs45 billion so that fuel was provided to thermal power plants. The situation could be improved by increasing production.

He said he had directed the water and power ministry to ensure that there was no loadshedding for 36 hours beginning from the evening of May 10 so that people could cast their votes without any irritation and election results were compiled as quickly as possible.

He said he had also directed the finance ministry to ensure that next budget was realistic, government expenditures were reduced to minimum, austerity was adopted and national resources were used in an efficient manner. “There should be no room for extravagant and unnecessary expenditures. Welfare of people should be given priority and common man should not be overburdened.”

“I am hopeful that we will hand over a better economy to the elected government through fiscal discipline and effective measures,” he said.

Mir Hazar Khan Khoso strongly urged the people to use their vote to put the country on strong footing and accelerate the process of development.

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