‘Nawaz Sharif to return and supervise PML-N’s electoral campaign’: Pak minister

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will return from London as soon as the electoral preparations for the general elections begin.

He also made it clear that elections in the politically crucial Punjab province will not be held on May 14 despite the Supreme Court’s order and “all-out efforts” of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by former prime minister Imran Khan.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently based in London, will return and supervise Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party’s electoral campaign, Geo News quoted the senior party leader as saying.

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An ailing Nawaz has been living in London since November 2019 for medical treatment after the high court allowed him a four-week reprieve. The 73-year-old leader was serving seven-year imprisonment in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia corruption case before his departure.

Holding provincial elections has taken centre stage in Pakistani politics as Khan has been pushing for snap elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

PTI Chairman Khan has been demanding early national elections since his ouster in April last year after he lost a confidence vote in Parliament.

The current term of the National Assembly will complete its five-year term in August this year. According to the Constitution, elections shall be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the lower house. This means that the election must be held by mid-October. The last general election was held in July 2018.

On April 5, Pakistan’s Supreme Court termed as “unconstitutional” Pakistan’s election commission’s decision to postpone polls in Punjab till October 8 and fixed May 14 as the date for polls in the province.

As the date for polls in the country is being considered, Sanaullah asserted on Sunday that elections to the Punjab Assembly would not be held on May 14 despite “all-out efforts” of the opposition PTI, the Geo News reported.

Elections across the country would be held at the appointed time this year, he said while talking to the media in Faisalabad on Sunday.

Despite the Supreme Court’s order to hold elections in Punjab on May 14 as well as pressure from the PTI, the Interior Minister said that elections would be held together under the caretaker setup.

“Election won’t be held on May 14 despite all-out efforts,” he said.

“If elections are not held in May, then October is not too far away either,” the senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader said.

The PTI dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on January 14 and 18, respectively, in a bid to force the ruling coalition to hold early general elections.

Calling former prime minister Khan a “fitna” (chaos), Sanaullah said that he was brought to power through a “conspiracy”.

“Their (PTI’s) policies over four years created a crisis situation for the country.”

“The PML-N has always taken the country out of the crisis,” he added.

Sanaullah said Khan used to claim that he would prefer to die by suicide instead of approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“It was (Imran Khan’s) government that signed the agreement with the IMF, not us. The difficulties are only due to the previous government’s agreement.”

The incumbent government, led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has taken tough measures including increasing taxes and energy prices, and allowing its currency to weaken to restart a USD 6.5 billion IMF loan package.

The funds will offer some relief to a nation still reeling from a dollar shortage that has raised the probability of the economy slipping into a recession ahead of elections this year.

Pakistan is tackling a major economic crisis as it awaits a much-needed USD 1.1 billion tranche of funding from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, part of a USD 6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019.

Load-shedding and terrorism were eradicated during the PML-N tenure, the federal minister said, adding that due to the PTI’s “wrong” policies, the country is now facing multiple crises.

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