No doubt elections will be held on Feb 8: Kakar

Thursday, Dec 07, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has said that the nation should not have any doubts about the general elections, scheduled to be held on February 8, 2024.

“I have no doubt about it. The concerns are often associated with our political system. We have a history of our own,” he remarked in an interview with a web-based media outlet, published on Wednesday.

He hoped that the elections would be held in free and fair manner.

To a question, Kakar said he did not consider the general elections of the 70s as a benchmark either as many people had different opinions about those polls.

“Of course, they were very transparent. At that time, it was already decided before the elections which way they would go to, so I consider it a problem,” he added.

He said as the arrangements were in place, and he was hopeful that the caretaker government would be able to give results in a relatively better way.

The interim PM said that he endorsed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s denial of any delay in the polls.

“They [ECP] have to conduct [elections]. We are with them.”

He said as per the ECP, the election schedule will cover 56 days, based on which the schedule should be announced by December 14.

Asked about the notions of elections being associated with the decline in Imran Khan’s popularity and his exclusion from the electoral process, the prime minister termed it a political analysis.

However, the elections would judge the popularity of any political leader, he commented.

To a question about the participation of Imran Khan or his party in the general elections, he said that there was no restriction on him as yet.

“However, if something unusual comes up, I can’t say anything about it. As of today, they are in a position to contest elections and they will contest.”

About the disappearances and resurfacing of PTI leaders, the caretaker prime minister said such people went into hiding, fearing arrest for their involvement in attacks on state institutions on May 9.

He said while in hiding, they would have second thought to leave PTI or politics which was their personal decision.

He said that no evidence of ‘’state coercion’’ had come to his knowledge, and even none of those people had spoken of ‘’state coercion’’.

Until then, it’s just allegations, he added.

Kakar disagreed with the view that the decision of May 9 arson should be left to the people for elections.

He also rejected the allegations of not having a level playing field.

Coming to the economic situation, he expressed his satisfaction with his government’s efforts so far to improve the national economy.

They will leave the blueprint for the rest of the work to the next government, he remarked.

Discussing the PIA, he rubbished the allegations of any malpractice in privatisation process and said such conspiratorial assumptions had brought the country to that extent. He said that expert advisors had been appointed for privatisation.

“These are not union level talks. Best practices are being implemented. They will advise in accordance with the global market trend. They can be audited even 50 years from now,” he said.

Discussing the repatriation of illegal foreigners from Pakistan, he said those having no travel documents would have to go back, though they might be back after obtaining the visa.

In response to a question regarding the phased evacuation, Kakar said that it was the discretionary power of the government.

“We believe that it needed to be done at once to show the seriousness of the government,” he remarked.

To a question, he told the interviewer that there had been no formal negotiations with the Afghan Taliban at present.

“Our policy regarding TTP [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan] is clear. We consider them as an enemy of this society and state. We believe that fighting them is our survival, and we will fight till the last extent for the survival of this state,” he added.

He denied the impression that Pakistan had any role in the Afghan Taliban’s return to power.

Coming to the Israeli aggression on Gaza, the prime minister said a lot could have been done, but Pakistan was still trying to establish an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian corridor.

There is always something that can be improved, he remarked.

He said that if the world had stood with the OIC and other countries, the pressure on Israel could have been increased.

Kakar said on the sidelines of the COP 28 in Dubai, he discussed the issue in detail with the king of Jordan, US Senator Kerry, Muhammad bin Zayed and the crown prince of Kuwait.

He expressed the fear that if continued, the Israeli aggression could also impact the entire Gulf and the world.

About the rumours in the country about establishing relations with Israel before October 7, he said that no such discussion was ever made at any level within the government.

The interim PM, who recently returned after attending the COP 28, said that funds under Loss and Damage Fund were yet to be allocated.

Meanwhile, chairing a meeting on Task Force on Polio Eradication, the caretaker prime minister directed formulation of an emergency polio eradication plan and launch of integrated programmes in high-risk union councils.

He emphasized monitoring of polio vaccination campaigns by using modern technology.

Expressing the recent report of police cases, he regretted that the crippling disease, which was eradicated from the globe, still existed in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kakar said regarding the use of Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) vaccine, best international practices and research needed to be taken into consideration.

He directed resumption of the regular polio immunisation campaign across the country.

He lauded the efforts of international community and development partners in polio eradication.

He mentioned that enhanced cooperation on polio eradication was agreed upon in a meeting with Bill Gates, the co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the sidelines of Conference of Parties (COP28).

Kakar stressed including teachers, scholars and parents for raising awareness on polio eradication.

Terming polio vaccine vital for the health, growth and future of children, he said all segments of the society needed to play their role in polio eradication.

He directed holding an Ulema Convention and taking onboard scholars to raise awareness on the issue.

The meeting was informed that special polio health camps had been set up in the high-risk zone of Dera Ismail Khan, while the same were being established in the vulnerable areas of Bannu, Lakki Marwat and Tank.

In the recent polio awareness drives, 44 million children have been administered vaccine.

It was highlighted that Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan are polio-free, whereas some union councils in the southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are more affected.

The meeting was told that the polio teams are administering vaccine to the children at the illegal Afghan repatriation camps at Peshawar, Nowshera and Chaman.

The meeting was attended by interim federal health minister Dr Nadeem Jan, caretaker chief minister KP Justice (retd) Arshad Hussain Shah, senior officials of National Task Force, chief secretaries and officials of law enforcement agencies.