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Pakistan’s prime minister says manipulation of coming elections by military is ”absolutely absurd”

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United Nations, Sep 23 (AP) Pakistan’s interim prime minister said he expects parliamentary
elections to take place in the new year, dismissing the possibility that the country’s powerful military
would manipulate the results to ensure that jailed former premier Imran Khan’s party doesn’t win.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said it’s the Election
Commission that is going to conduct the vote, not the military, and Khan appointed the
commission’s chief at the time, so “why would he turn in any sense of the word against him?”
Pakistan has been in deepening political turmoil since April 2022 when Khan was removed from
office following a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He was arrested in early August on corruption
charges and sentenced to three years in prison, later suspended though he still remains in jail.
The country is also facing one of the worst economic crises in its history and recovering from last
summer’s devastating floods that killed at least 1,700 people and destroyed millions of homes and
farmland.
The commission announced on Thursday the elections would take place during the last week in
January, delaying the vote which was to be held in November under the constitution.
Kakar resigned as a senator last month after outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and opposition
leader Raza Riaz chose him as caretaker prime minister to oversee the elections and run the day-to-
day affairs until a new government is elected.
Kakar said that when the commission sets an exact election date his government “will provide all the
assistance, financial, security or other related requirements.”
Asked whether he would recommend judges overturn Khan’s conviction so he could run in the
elections, the prime minister said he wouldn’t interfere with decisions by the judiciary.
He stressed that the judiciary should not be used “as a tool for any political ends”.
“We are not pursuing anyone on a personal vendetta,” Kakar said. “But yes, we will ensure that the
law is appropriate. Anyone, be it Imran Khan or any other politician who violates, in terms of their
political behaviour, the laws of the country, then the restoration of the law has to be ensured. We
cannot equate that with … political discrimination.”
He said fair elections can take place without Khan or hundreds of members of his party who are
jailed because they engaged in unlawful activities including vandalism and arson, in reference to the
violence that rocked the country following Khan’s initial arrest in May.
He added that the thousands of people in Khan’s party who didn’t engage in unlawful activities, “will
be running the political process, they will be participating in the elections".
The Pakistani military has been behind the rise and fall of governments, with some of Khan’s
supporters suggesting there is de facto military rule in Pakistan and that democracy is under threat.
Kakar, who reportedly has close ties to the military, said those allegations are “part and parcel of our
political culture” to which he pays no attention. He called his government’s working relationship
with the military “very smooth,” as well as “very open and candid”.
”We do have challenges of civil-military relationships, I’m not denying that,” he said, but there are
very different reasons for the imbalance. He said he believes, after one month leading the
government, that civil institutions in Pakistan have “deteriorated in terms of performance for the
last many decades” while the military is disciplined, has organisational capabilities and has improved
over the past four decades.
The solution, Kakar said, is to gradually improve the performance of the civilian institutions “rather
than weakening the current military organisation, because that’s not going to solve any of our
problems”. (AP)

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