A prominent rights group has objected to the recent statements issued by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar about a senior politician who remains incarcerated, stating that it is not for him nor his government to decide what constitutes 'fair' elections.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Human Rights Council of Pakistan (HRCP) on Monday.
The statement was issued in response to the weekend interview given by Kakar before returning from the US after attending the United Nations General Assembly. In the interview, Kakar stated that free and fair elections were possible even with former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and thousands of his supporters still behind bars.
In the statement titled "Caretaker government must end pre-poll political victimisation" by HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani, she expressed "strong exception: to Kakar's recent statement.
"Given that the courts have yet to establish guilt in all such cases, Kakar's claims are anti-democratic and ill-judged," the statement read.
It added that the prime minister should know that "it is not for him or his government to decide unilaterally what constitutes a 'fair' election."
HRCP said the systematic way in which the PTI leadership has been dismantled-in the shape of mass arrests and rearrests, forced disassociation from the party, the disproportionate number of cases filed against political leaders and workers (including in military courts), and curbs on their freedom of expression and assembly — has not produced a level playing field.
This is cause for concern because it perpetuates a pattern of pre-election manipulation that was also visible in 2018, the commission said.
HRCP also condemned the treatment meted out to former chief minister and PTI president Parvez Elahi, who had been rearrested against the directive of the Lahore High Court.
"HRCP reminds the government that responsibility for ensuring free and fair elections falls to the Election Commission of Pakistan," the statement said, adding that the caretaker government must desist from making irresponsible, partisan statements on matters not within its mandate.
Instead, HRCP suggested that the caretaker government must create and maintain an environment conducive to free, fair, credible and inclusive 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
In an interview to the Associated Press on Friday, Kakar had dismissed as "absolutely absurd" the possibility that the country's powerful military could manipulate the results to deny Imran's party a victory.
Kakar further said that the thousands of people in Imran's party who did not engage in unlawful activities on May 9 "will be running the political process, they will be participating in the elections."
He added that once the ECP announces the date for elections, his interim government -- responsible for managing day-to-day affairs of state -- "will provide all the assistance, financial, security or other related requirements."