HRCP terms PM Kakar's statement on Imran Khan 'undemocratic'

Caretaker prime minister said conducting transparent polls minus PTI leadership is possible

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) andPTI Chairman Imran Khan. — Online/AFP/File

LAHORE: Reacting to Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s statement about conducting transparent elections sans Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said theclaims are undemocratic and unreasonable.

PM Kakar, in an interview a day earlier, said free and fair polls can be held even without incarcerated PTI Chairman Imran Khan — who is currently behind bars in the cipher case.

“Free and fair elections can take place without [Imran] Khan or hundreds of members of his party who are jailed because they engaged in unlawful activities including vandalism and arson," the premier said.

In their statement issued following the prime minister's remarks, the HRCP said courts were yet to establish guilt in all such cases, terming Kakar's claim "inappropriate". It added that the prime minister should be aware that it is not for him or his government to decide unilaterally what constitutes a ‘fair’ election.

The systematic way in which the PTI leadership has been dismantled in the shape of mass arrests and rearrests, forced disassociation from the party, the disproportionate number of cases filed against political leaders and workers (including in military courts) and curbs on their freedom of expression and assembly has not produced a level playing field.

This is a cause for concern because it perpetuates a pattern of pre-election manipulation that was also visible in 2018. The HRCP condemned the treatment meted out to former chief minister and PTI President Parvez Elahi who was rearrested against the directive of the Lahore High Court and reminded the government that the responsibility for ensuring fair elections lies with the Election Commission of Pakistan.

It said the caretaker government must desist from making irresponsible, partisan statements on matters not within its mandate. Instead, it must ensure that an environment conducive to credible and inclusive elections is created and maintained.