As political temperatures rise in the country amidst relentless criticism of the incumbent government, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has precluded the possibility of snap polls saying the next general elections would be held in 2018 after his government completes its five-year constitutional tenure.
“2018 will be the year for the citizens of Pakistan to judge every party on the basis of their performance and they will have a chance to vote in or vote out any political party,” the prime minister said in a statement on Saturday.
“All political forces have a stake in the democratic system, and we all know that loyalty to the Constitution is imperative for us, and it is no longer an issue of choice,” the prime minister said. Parliamentary leaders of all political groupings have supported the government in its row with the PTI and advised the prime minister not to accept any unconstitutional demand of Imran Khan’s party. Premier Nawaz said that no system was perfect, but the Constitution and parliamentary democracy were the only tools to remove imperfections in the existing system. “We will provide a better and prosperous Pakistan when we enter the election mode in 2018,” he added.
The statement came as the PTI prepares for what it calls a ‘decisive rally’ in the federal capital on November 30 to push for its demand for an audit of the 2013 election which, it alleges, were massively rigged in favour of the ruling PML-N.
It also came as Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Tahirul Qadri, who returned to the country a few days back, predicted that the elections would be held in 2015. And it coincided with a massive three-day Ijtemah (congregation) of the Jamaat-e-Islami where the politico-religious party is calling for a change in system.
Sources in the PML-N told The Express Tribune that the prime minister wanted to give a loud and clear message to his detractors that the government would not succumb to street agitation. They further said that the prime minister issued the statement after conferring with his senior aides.
Sources said that through the statement the prime minister also wanted to convey a message to foreign investors that there was political stability in Pakistan and that the ongoing street protests posed no threat to the government.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet Committee on Energy devised a comprehensive strategy to counter PTI’s November 30 rally which, it said, was creating obstacles for the government in the implementation of its agenda for development and overcoming the energy crisis with the support of China.
The committee was told that although the Chinese government has offered loans to its companies to work on various projects in Pakistan but they were still reluctant while PTI’s November 30 gathering had further added to their fears.
According to sources, the premier directed the committee to make sure that neither the energy projects signed with China nor the Chinese president’s upcoming visit to Pakistan was further delayed.
The prime minister will perform the ground-breaking ceremony of the Hazara Motorway on November 29. The 60-kilometre-long four-lane fenced expressway, to be built at the cost of Rs31 billion, is part of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, said an official statement.
The Hazara Motorway will reduce the drive time from Islamabad to Havelian to just 30 minutes along with providing road infrastructure to the Havelian dry port project.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2014.