Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday stressed that all registered political parties will be provided a level playing field—including freedom to stage rallies and field their chosen candidates—in upcoming general elections.
Speaking with journalists affiliated with foreign media outlets at Prime Minister’s House, he specifically noted that he had no qualms with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) contesting elections. “No political party is being prevented from political activities,” he said, while cautioning that any attempt to campaign through vandalism would not be tolerated.
To a question on the schedule for general elections, he reiterated that the interim government’s primary mandate was to facilitate the Election Commission in Pakistan (ECP) in conducting polls. Referring to the constitutional requirement of conducting general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly, he said the Constitution needed to be examined “holistically.” Stressing that the Constitution also called for conducting the delimitation of constituencies after a new population census, he said the polls would occur after the process were completed.
Responding to a question on ongoing protests against electricity bills—which the interim government had last week promised would be addressed within 48 hours—Kakar claimed efforts were underway to find “out-of-the-box solutions” that were realistic.
“The government would make informed decisions to satisfy the masses on the issue of electricity bills without deviating from the country’s commitments with the international financial institutions,” he said. To a question, he said the government was “thoroughly” discussing contracts with independent power producers, but stressed those discussions would not be brought into the public domain. “We are on a course, where we feel, we should find a solution, as we feel the contracts are uneven,” he added.
He also discussed circular debt, power theft and taxes, noting the government was looking at “short-term solutions” to resolve the issue.
Reiterating that the interim government was not looking to “redesign” the government structure, he said it was focused on rearranging fiscal and monetary policies to establish a foundation for economic revival. Referring to the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), he said it was focused on agriculture, mines and minerals, defense production, and information technology. He said the Reko Diq project aimed to utilize reserves worth $6 trillion of copper and gold in Balochistan, adding he hoped investment projects worth $25 billion each from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. would be realized within two to five years.
The interim government, he said, had an economic reform agenda that sought to privatize two or more power distribution companies, as well as several loss-making state-owned enterprises. He said that regardless of political association, the people of Balochistan welcomed every project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, noting it had entered its second phase. He assured the government would go to any extent to protect the lives of Chinese workers employed in CPEC projects.
On Pak-Afghan ties and a resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan, Kakar said the biggest issue was the military equipment left behind by U.S.-led forces upon their exit from Afghanistan. “Foreign forces left Afghanistan after losing interest but we are here to defend our home, children, mosques and places of worship,” he said, adding a coordinated approach was needed to address the challenge.
Noting Pak-Afghan ties were deeply rooted in cultural and faith-based linkages as well as social integration, he recalled that Pakistan had hosted millions of Afghan refugees. However, he added, there was a major issue of illegal immigration and the government was working on a plan to tackle it.
To a question, the interim prime minister said his government had an “excellent working environment” with the Pakistan Army and both were working together for economic revival. “There is no sense where we feel we are being dictated,” he said, adding there was “cooperation” on various economic and security concerns.
He also expressed the hope that as Pakistan’s economy grew, the country’s “branding” would transform with foreign states looking at it as a means of regional peace.
On Pakistan’s ties with Russia, he said the government was exploring various means to have a constructive relationship, including the import of oil.