‘Establishment’ will not help Imran Khan get election date: Sanaullah

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Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah said Tuesday the “establishment” would not help Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan get the date for general elections as the party ups the ante against the incumbent government.

In his address earlier in the day, the PTI chief announced that he would be revealing the date of both — Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — assemblies’ dissolution on December 17 (Saturday).

“Once we dissolve both assemblies, we will hold elections in the provinces. Also, our 123-125 National Assembly members — whose resignations have not been accepted — will ask the speaker inside the assembly to accept their resignations,” Khan said.

In response, while speaking on Geo News’ programme “Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath”, the interior minister challenged Khan to dissolve the assemblies so “we can get it over with”.

“We [federal government] will hold elections for the assemblies that they dissolve, and we will conduct by-elections on the seats that will be left vacant after their resignations,” Sanaullah said.

Ruling out that the government is worried about the outcome if elections are held, the minister said he is confident of the ruling alliance’s victory in Punjab and other provinces.

“I think that he [Khan] might stretch this issue till March of February. However, I don’t want him to delay this further. Let’s end this uncertainty,” the interior minister added.

No 2018-like ‘facilities’

Sanaullah also stressed that the PTI would not have “facilities” that were provided during the 2018 general elections. “And let me assure you, Imran Khan has neither pressurised the government nor the establishment.”

If the country heads towards polls, the interior minister said, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif would lead the party’s election campaign.

Sources told Geo News last week that if assemblies are dissolved, then Nawaz would be requested to come back to Pakistan immediately.

“I also want Imran Khan to not announce the dissolution date on December 17, but rather announce the dissolution of assemblies. We will form the government in Punjab, I am sure about it,” Sanaullah said, adding, “Imran Khan’s blackmailing narrative has been buried.”

‘Default campaign’

Defending the government’s stance to not dissolve the National Assembly, the minister said that the ruling wanted to stay in power for the better of the country due to the uphill task on the economic front.

“We have already sustained all the political setbacks that we had to,” he said, adding that the ruling coalition is focusing on strategies to ensure stability.

Sanaullah said if the federal government goes home and a caretaker set-up was formed, then 90 days — during which all the polling process takes place — “would take a heavy toll on the country”.

The minister also blamed the PTI chief for running a “campaign to default Pakistan” — as the markets are jittery due to the persistent political instability.

Former finance minister Miftah Ismail also fears that the path Pakistan is on might take the country towards default, but Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had assured that nothing of the sort would happen.