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HRCP slams PM Kakar over polls without Imran remarks | The Express Tribune


The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has issued a scathing rebuke of Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s recent statements suggesting that fair elections can be conducted without the involvement of senior leaders from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), including party chairman Imran Khan.

In a strongly-worded statement released on Monday, the HRCP characterised Kakar’s remarks as “anti-democratic and ill-judged.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, the caretaker premier had said that fair elections can take place without Imran or hundreds of members of his party who are jailed because they engaged in unlawful activities including vandalism and arson – a reference to the violence that rocked the country following the former prime minister’s initial arrest in May in Al-Qadir Trust case.

However, the interim PM added that the thousands of people in Imran’s party who didn’t engage in unlawful activities, “will be running the political process, they will be participating in the elections”.

Read more: Minus-one formula echoes again

Political observers were quick to detect that the approach appeared to eerily align with the strategy of the “minus-one formula,” which entails the removal of a party leader while encouraging others to seize power.

The prime minister’s comments come at a time when PTI Chairperson Imran Khan is currently incarcerated on allegations of graft, along with several other PTI leaders who were jailed in the aftermath of the 9 May riots.

The HRCP, an independent human rights watchdog, criticised Kakar’s claims, emphasising that the courts have not yet established the guilt of these leaders in their respective cases. The HRCP firmly stated that it is not within the prerogative of the prime minister or his government to unilaterally determine what constitutes a “fair” election.

“The systematic manner in which the PTI leadership has been dismantled, including mass arrests, rearrests, forced disassociation from the party, an excessive number of legal cases filed against political leaders and workers (including military court proceedings), and restrictions on their freedom of expression and assembly, has not created a level playing field,” the HRCP asserted in its statement.

Also read: PTI slams PM over polls sans PTI remarks

Expressing concern over this pattern of pre-election manipulation, which the HRCP claimed was also evident in the 2018 elections, the organisation underscored the importance of ensuring that elections are conducted fairly, without any interference or manipulation.

The HRCP also condemned the treatment of former Punjab chief minister and PTI President Parvez Elahi, who was rearrested despite a directive from the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordering his release.

Furthermore, the HRCP reminded the government that the primary responsibility for ensuring free and fair elections rests with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), an independent body tasked with overseeing the electoral process.

The HRCP called on the caretaker government to refrain from making irresponsible and partisan statements on matters beyond its mandate. Instead, it urged the government to prioritise the creation and maintenance of an environment conducive to free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections.

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