ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly criticized the comments made by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday regarding the possibility of “fair elections” without the presence of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and other incarcerated party members.
Imran Khan, initially imprisoned on charges of “corrupt practices” in the Toshakhana case, although his conviction has been temporarily suspended, is currently in judicial custody in connection with the cipher case.
In an interview with The Associated Press over the weekend, Prime Minister Kakar asserted that “fair” elections could be conducted without the involvement of Imran Khan and his party leaders, who had been detained as part of a government crackdown following violent riots nationwide on May 9.
PM Kakar also indicated that thousands of PTI members who were not involved in “unlawful activities” would play a pivotal role in the political process and participate in the upcoming elections.
The interim prime minister’s statement came shortly after the Election Commission of Pakistan announced that national elections would be held in January of the following year. Consequently, major political parties in the country began their preparations for the impending elections.
During the interview, the prime minister categorically dismissed the notion of the military establishment tampering with election outcomes to prevent PTI from winning, labeling such claims as “absolutely absurd.”
In a statement issued today, HRCP reminded the prime minister that the courts have yet to establish guilt in the cases against Imran and his party leaders. HRCP described Mr. Kakar’s assertions as “anti-democratic and ill-considered.”
The commission emphasized that the determination of what constitutes a “fair” election should not be unilaterally decided by the prime minister or his government.
HRCP underscored the concern that the systematic measures taken against PTI leadership, including mass arrests, repeated incarcerations, forced disassociation from the party, an excessive number of legal cases against political figures and workers (some in military courts), and restrictions on their freedom of expression and assembly, have not created a level playing field for the upcoming elections.
HRCP takes strong exception to Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s claim that fair elections are possible without senior PTI leaders, including the chairperson Imran Khan, who is currently incarcerated in a graft case, and other leaders who were jailed following the 9 May riots.… pic.twitter.com/Qj6cQJY2AK
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) September 25, 2023
HRCP expressed apprehension that these actions perpetuate a pattern of pre-election manipulation, similar to what was witnessed in 2018.
The commission also condemned the treatment of former Chief Minister and PTI President Parvez Elahi, who has been subject to multiple arrests and rearrests, contrary to the directives of the high court.
HRCP reminded the government that the responsibility for ensuring free and fair elections lies with the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The caretaker government was urged to refrain from making irresponsible and partisan statements on matters outside its mandate. Instead, it was urged to ensure the creation and maintenance of an environment conducive to free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections.