Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has claimed that free and fair elections can be held even without incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, who is currently serving a three-year sentence in the Attock Jail in a corruption case.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced last week that general election would be held by the end of January 2024.In an interview with The Associated Press news agency, Kakar said: “Free and fair elections can take place without [Imran] Khan or hundreds of members of his party, who are jailed because they [were] engaged in unlawful activities including vandalism and arson.”The May 9 riots were triggered almost across the country after the deposed prime minister’s arrest in the £190 million settlement case. Hundreds of PTI workers and senior leaders were put behind bars for their involvement in violence and attacks on military installations.Responding to a question, Kakar said that those PTI activists, who are serving jail sentences, were involved in arson attacks, vandalism and other illegal activities.“Thousands of PTI activists, who did not engage in unlawful activities, can partake in the upcoming elections,” he added. When asked if there is a view that the military is going to manipulate the upcoming elections to make sure that the PTI does not return to power, the caretaker premier replied: “I think it is absolutely absurd.”“The ECP is going to conduct the elections, not the military,” he said, adding that there is also the caretaker government to monitor and support the electoral process.The current Chief Election Commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja, was appointed by Imran Khan, Kakar said and asked, “Why would he turn in any sense of the word against him?”To another question, the premier said, “We are not pursuing anyone on a personal vendetta.” He, however, warned that if the PTI chairman or any other politician violates the rules and regulations, they would be dealt with according to the law.PM Kakar further said he would not interfere with the verdicts by the courts, adding that the judiciary should also not be used “as a tool for any political ends”.Meanwhile, strongly reacting to the PM’s statement on the upcoming general elections, a spokesperson for the former ruling party said: “The general election without the PTI or Imran Khan will be unconstitutional and unethical.”The spokesperson claimed that the PTI is the largest political party and Khan — who was removed from power through a parliamentary vote in April last year — is the most popular leader in the country.The former ruling party spokesman said the caretaker premier’s statement represented the insensitivity found in the state’s structure and asked PM Kakar to clarify his remarks immediately. The PTI spokesperson warned that people will not accept such elections.He further said the caretaker premier should separate his government from the “evil designs”.

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