No justification for postponing polls: President Alvi
President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday said that there was no justification to delay elections even as he warned that any move to eliminate former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan from the political chessboard through a ‘minus’ formula would backfire, inviting strong public reaction.
He said this while speaking to the media at the Governor House in Lahore on Thursday. Alvi has been in the provincial capital for two days, holding multiple meetings with Imran.
On the purported ‘minus Imran’ formula, Alvi pointed to the past implementations of this formula to remove lynchpin political figures and how it had failed to yield positive results.
“Those elements, which are either talking about it or pursuing it, are not doing any service to the country,” he said.
Referring to the recent arrest of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, he said that it was unfortunate that politicians were being handcuffed on allegations of contempt and were then presented before courts with their faces covered.
Terming it as highly unfortunate, Alvi noted that such treatment is meted out to a hardcore terrorist or criminals, not politicians or any other citizen.
While replying to another question, he said that the government should desist and restrain itself from arresting any popular leader [Imran Kha], as there was no logic or reason to do so and if done it may catapult the country into further chaos and will add to the misery and hardships of the public.
He went on to urge all stakeholders to avoid taking any action which has the potential of creating strife and unrest in the country.
If such strife results in public agitation, then it may become difficult to manage, he stated cryptically.
PTI talks with govt
Alvi further suggested that If the PTI chairman does not want to hold one-on-one negotiations, then the second or third-tier leadership could hold negotiations.
He said PTI is ready for negotiations with the government on elections and economy.
President Arif Alvi also suggested his party hold negotiations with the government but without the precondition of snap polls.
Postponement of polls
On the timing of the general elections and suggestions that they could be delayed, Dr Alvi said that there was no reason to justify any postponement of elections as they were required to be held within a certain period under the Constitution.
He added that he had full confidence in the people of Pakistan, relevant institutions, and organized political parties that they would ensure that elections are held within the time-frame given in the Constitution.
PM has required numbers for trust move
President Arif Alvi said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has the required numbers in the house to survive a vote of confidence, especially after resignations of most PTI members of the house were accepted.
Contrary to the rhetoric of PTI leaders, Dr Arif Alvi clarified that the country was not going to default (economically) and pinned hopes that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be successful.
Neutral president, caretakers
Dr Alvi said that Pakistan’s Constitution was supreme and sacred and cannot be ignored. He added that as per the Constitution, he was to remain neutral by all means, and that he would always follow the spirit of the Constitution in all matters related to the conduct of official business by setting aside his person likes or dislikes.
The president added that spirit behind the caretaker government was to ensure its neutrality so that elections are held in a transparent, fair and just manner by giving all political parties a level playing field to contest the elections.
He, however, left a pointed jab towards the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as he emphasized that this spirit should be reflected in the constitution of caretaker governments.
No response from government on talks
Asked about a dialogue with the government, a dismayed Dr Alvi said no one from the government has approached him in the past month and a half to take up his suggestion to hold talks and de-escalate the ongoing political tensions in the country.
“The government may have believed that after reaching an understanding with the IMF and signing of an agreement with IMF, economic conditions would have improved, thus, eliminating the need for any dialogue,” Dr Alvi suggested.
The President said that during his talk with the Governor of Punjab, he had told him that no action would be taken outside the confines of the Constitution with regard to holding of elections in the province.
Establishment is neutral
Commenting on the role of establishment, he answered the establishment has said that they are neutral, so we should accept it.
Terming it an opportunity, he urged politicians take charge, and resort to democratic means of resolving the issues faced by the nation.
He also termed the method adopted for the appointment of the caretaker Punjab chief minister as constitutional.
He said it could not be checked constitutionally whether the caretaker chief minister is biased or neutral.
Surprisingly he said, PTI did not speak on the arrest of Fawad Chaudhry.
Poor polling calls for technological intervention
President Dr Alvi lamented how several results for the second phase of local bodies elections in Sindh have been delayed and reemphasized the use of technology.
In this regard, he emphasized how Electronic Voting Machines, could not only ensure speedy compilation of results apart from helping conduct free, fair and transparent elections.
More belt tightening to come
President Alvi predicted that while the next economic review of the government by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be completed successfully, he said that it would come at the cost of further strict economic measures.
In this regard, he said that he had urged time and again the political and other relevant stakeholders that there was a dire need to lower the political as well as economic temperature, which was possible only when all stakeholders and relevant institution agree on major issues confronting the nation such as political polarization, economy and higher inflation faced by the people.
The president said that the international economic outlook and our own weaknesses had resulted in a dire economic situation and higher inflation. This would attract stringent conditions f rom the IMF which would only put additional pressure on the socio-economic wellbeing of the people.
He added that ninth review meeting of the IMF will be held sooner rather than later but see new conditions which would require a fully mandated government in power to prepare the people for upcoming financial and economic tightening.
He said that despite his concerns, he was confident that Pakistan would not financially default and that the economy would recover strongly.
Dr Alvi said that in his first meeting with Shehbaz after the latter took office in April, he had urged the premier to take initiatives in the public interest, such as conservation of electricity, gas and water.
These initiatives would not necessarily involve spending a lot of money but only some changes in attitudes and securing the willingness of the people to adjust their business hours to minimize the use of electricity.
Dr Alvi said that the President House was completely environment-friendly and energy negative as it met all its energy needs through a 1 mega watt solar power plant installed at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, besides exporting surplus energy to the national grid.
He added that the President House had been internationally recognized as an environment friendly Presidential Office and was the world’s first green presidency.
Arshad Sharif’s murder still unsoslved
Replying to another question, President Alvi said that the murder of senior journalist and anchorperson Arshad Sharif remains unresolved.
He said that no journalist nor citizen deserves such treatment beyond the legal, lawful and constitutional safeguards provided to them.
He said that until someone is convicted by the competent court of law, all citizens enjoy all rights provided to them under the law and constitution.
While replying to a question, President Alvi said that during his association with PTI, he was the one to advise about the creation of a Limited Liability Company for the transfer of donation from abroad which was the only way to legally transfer funds.
He said that this was absolutely legal and within the ambit of international rules and all such donations were treated in a transparent and legal manner.