Power Minister Khurram Dastgir has expressed hope that elections would be held before or on November 10 as he rejected the perception of an extension in caretaker government tenure to complete the loan programme and seek investments from Gulf countries.
“As of now, July 24, hopefully, it is fully hoped that may God help us. Elections will be held on November 10 or before it, inshallah in the whole country and all four provinces,” he said on Aaj News show Faisla Aap Ka on Monday. “This is important at all costs.”
Parliament’s tenure would complete on August 12 or 13, however, the ruling coalition has hinted at dissolving the assemblies a few days before the aforementioned date. In such a case, the Constitution states the time for holding elections.
Article 224 titled ‘Time of election and by-election’ states that “a general election to the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly shall be held within a period of sixty days immediately following the day on which the day on which the term of the Assembly is due to expire, unless the Assembly has been sooner dissolved, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days before that day.”
And Article 224(2) provides: “When the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly is dissolved, a general election to the Assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls.”
Perception related to extension in the interim government’s tenure got traction when reports said that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was the first choice for the interim prime minister slot.
At one point on the show, Dastgir reiterated that his argument was not that the continuation of economic policy could be the reason for the delay in elections. “My argument is only amendment to Section 230 [of Election Act, 2017].”
While defending Dar’s name for the top slot, Dastgir spoke about the continuation of economic policy which, according to him, was needed for big investments from the Gulf countries.
According to Dastgir, some countries in the Middle East were ready for investment in four sectors: mining, information technology, agriculture, and power. He mentioned the formation of a civil-military body, Special Investment Facilitation Council, for investment.
He claimed that Saudi Arabia was disappointed with no progress from the Pakistan side on their offer to have $12 billion worth of oil refinery here. Now, the power minister added that the incumbent government has completed all legal matters and formed a refinery policy.
The government has forwarded the policy to the kingdom, Dastgir said and added that if an agreement was received from them, which means “they are ready”, the purpose was that it should not be stopped.
He went on to add that such a massive investment would prompt the world’s attention towards Pakistan. Such issues could not be delayed, he added.
But former PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who was another guest on the show, did not buy it and wondered if the interim setup would extend its tenure if Saudi Arabia delays its investment plan by June next year.
“This [Dastgir’s] argument has no weight. We have our constitutional reasonability,” he said and stressed the need for following Article 224.
Khokhar was of the view that Dar’s appointment was unconstitutional, saying that the spirit of the Constitution says when an assembly was dissolved it was bound that immediate family members of an interim PM could not take part in elections.
Secondly, he added that Dar’s appointment would send a wrong message in a society which was already polarised.
Journalist Fahd Husain, who was the third guest at the show, was also shocked to hear about the PML-N’s choice for the caretaker prime minister.
He wanted to be “charitable” and said there might be some logic in Dar’s candidacy. But he added that the PML-N did not present any reason or logic for it.
Hussain was of the view that the final nod from the “most important stakeholder” matters. “It won’t be two parties’ decision. PTI, PDM, and establishment are three corners. PTI has fallen. PDM is in no position to negotiate with the establishment. If today PTI has fallen there is no role of PDM in it. PDM has won a victory, it has not earned it.”
But the power minister opposed it and spoke about the cases against them during the PTI tenure. Dastgir. He was of the view that the PTI’s decision to quit from assemblies led to their irrelevance.