Sole burden of poll conduct ‘lies on ECP’

Solangi says CEC assured of caretaker govt’s full support

Our Correspondent/APP/News Desk August 18, 2023


The caretaker federal government conveyed to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) its commitment to assist it in holding free and fair elections in the country, Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said on Friday.

Briefing the media about the maiden cabinet meeting, the minister said that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja had been assured that the ECP’s recommendations regarding necessary postings of officials would be implemented.

Solangi said that holding elections was the responsibility of the ECP and the government would fulfil its duty of assisting it in this regard, and discharge its responsibilities in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

“The first cabinet meeting was held today under the chairmanship of caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar,” the minister told reporters. “The prime minister received briefings from the ministers about their respective ministries.”

The minister said that the prime minister established a committee comprising representatives of the finance, trade, and energy ministries as well as other pertinent ministries and departments to oversee the economic revival process.

He told reporters that he held a meeting with the CEC, apprising him of the government’s commitment to assist the ECP in holding free and fair elections and implement its recommendations on the postings of officials.

Solangi said that the ECP was “solely” responsible for holding the elections, and not the interim government.

“Whether they (ECP) choose to conduct them in 90 days or in February, we will not prolong our stay even by a single minute.”

The cabinet meeting decided that “on the election day, the first vote would be cast by the caretaker prime minister and then by the ministers”, the caretaker minister announced.

“The country will ultimately be run by the elected representatives of the people as envisaged in the Constitution of Pakistan. The caretaker government will only look after the affairs till the elections,” Solangi said.

To a question, Solangi said poverty and inflation were a reality and nobody could deny it. “It was also a fact that the hike in the petroleum products' prices also caused inflation,” he added.

“But the government's hands were tied because of the IMF's (International Monetary Fund) stand-by arrangement,” he said. “We cannot afford to buy petroleum products at high prices and sell them at low rates.”

The minister explained that as per the IMF agreement, the government could not subsidise the prices of commodities. However, he stressed that the government would cut its expenditure to reduce the burden on the national exchequer.

“The cabinet decided to reduce the government's spending in view of the prevailing economic conditions, and it is also the government's responsibility not to waste the taxpayers' money,” he continued.

“It is the responsibility of every government, including the caretaker set-up, to take steps for strengthening the economy, and for improving the law and order situation in the country.”

Jaranwala incident

Solangi said that everyone expressed grief and sorrow over the Jaranwala incident, stressing that steps were being taken to ensure protection of the minorities. “The state with its power stands with the minorities,” he added.

“No one will be allowed to victimise them in the name of religion, colour or caste. Islam granted special rights to the minorities and those who are responsible for the Jaranwala incident will be brought to justice,” he pledged.

The minister revealed that the cabinet stressed the need for promoting Sufism in the country to counter extremism, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance prevailing in the society.

The minister urged the media and the educational institutions to play an important role in promoting tolerance and harmony in the society to prevent any repeat of the Jaranwala incident in the future.

When asked about the legal cases against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership, he said the matter was sub judice.

“The government is not a party to these cases. The relevant institutions are performing their duties as per law.”
He emphasised that the government remained impartial and would refrain from engaging in any partisan activities. “We will neither expedite these cases nor impede their progress,” he said.

About the composition of the caretaker cabinet, Solangi said that there were only 16 members, besides over half-a-dozen advisers and special assistants. “Most of the cabinet members represent their respective fields,” he added.

Solangi expressed the hope that the caretaker federal ministers would prove their worth with their performance.
During the cabinet meeting, he said, Prime Minister Kakar emphasised the need for building infrastructure in the country.

The information minister reiterated that the caretaker government did not believe in any gag on the media and would take steps to ensure freedom of expression in the country.

He said that the prime minister affirmed that the matter of Kashmir was “intrinsic to our identity, and we cannot afford to overlook it, nor do we intend to do so”. 


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