Elections to pave way for economic stability in Pakistan, says Kakar

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Wednesday said that all speculations regarding the upcoming general elections have been addressed, which would “translate into economic stability”.

On 11th January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) board approved our second tranche, and all those speculations regarding the elections have been addressed. Everyone is certain about the election date i.e. 8th February,” said Kakar in an interview to CNBC, on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF).

“I think so, that [general elections] is going to lead towards a stable government, which would translate into economic stability,” he said. “I do see and project that probably there wouldn’t be a great growth rate in Pakistan, but there would be a sense of stability. It would be slow but sustainable,” he added.

The remarks come in response to concerns raised by the World Bank, which warned that heightened political uncertainty in Pakistan could slow down growth in the private sector.

“Weak confidence stemming from political turmoil will contribute to the slow growth in private demand,” said the World Bank in its latest publication ‘Global Economic Prospects — January 2024’ released last week.

On addressing economic issues, Kakar during the interview said that the economic revival has remained a top priority of the interim setup.

“It was our top priority to bring the economic revival and focus on the growth and rest of the economic indicators,” he said.

“For the next government, if there has to be a guiding principle is to earn more and spend less,” he said.

The caretaker PM said that there needs to be a “thorough rationalization” of government spending. “On the revenue generation, we need to revamp our taxation system, it is badly redundant. We need to increase documentation of the economy, and transform our state towards a more viable economic entity,” he added.

Talking about the interim government measures, the caretaker PM said that his government has introduced a revamped programme within the taxation system. “We have brought structural changes to that, which would pass through the cabinet, probably by the end of this month. It would be in place as policy,” he added.

The interim prime minister added that the government has gone on an aggressive investment spree, has cut federal-level expenditures, and is in talks with provinces to rationalize their spending.

Elections ‘a constitutional requirement’

Meanwhile, Kakar said that general elections will take place in Pakistan on February 8 which was “a constitutional requirement and everyone in the country is committed to that particular date”.

While speaking about concerns on elections being “rigged”, Kakar said critics should first let the polls take place first after which the conduct could be questioned.

“First they said, we are not going to have elections. Now, when we are having an election, they are saying, oh, it is one of the most rigged elections in the history,” the interim PM said.

He further said that there would be international observers as well as foreign and domestic media reporting on the elections.

“Let them then report and decide, whether it was rigged or not that rigged,” he said.

Imran not jailed for his political opinions

Speaking about the incarcerated PTI founder Imran Khan and the party being stripped off its electoral symbols, Kakar said Pakistan was a transitional democracy, saying that such democracies faced “domestic challenges”.

The caretaker PM added that Imran was not jailed for his political opinions but for his “alleged role in committing riots and encouraging arson” and for calling on his supporters to do the same.

“This sort of behaviour is dealt with by the law even in settled democracies,” he said, drawing a comparison between the attack on the US Capitol in 2021.

“The people who have been involved in the riots are behind the bars.

It is not that innocent people have been picked up for their political opinion and have been denied a political role or being part of that process. So I do not see that as unfair,“ he said.

On Imran alleging that the charges against him were politically motivated, the interim PM said that Imran has all the right to say that but let the courts decide that.

“It is not for me, for the media or for public opinion to decide this question the court are there to address all these questions.”