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ISLAMABAD: Jamaat-e-Islami(JI) Pakistan chief Sirajul Haq on Monday while hitting hard at the present caretaker setup as well as the former governments led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has called upon the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to promptly announce a clear date for the general elections.

Addressing at a press conference here along with JI secretary-general Amirul Azim and Mian Aslam here, Haq said the ECP failed to conduct the polls within the stipulated 90 days following the dissolution of the assemblies, hence, it also fell short of meeting the constitutional requirements.

Despite of that, he said, the JI believed at least now the ECP should remove ambiguity and announce the precise date for the general election.

He urged all institutions, particularly the judiciary, the military establishment, and the ECP itself, to maintain an apolitical stance, refrain from interfering in political matters, and allow the people of Pakistan to exercise their right to elect their representatives in a free and fair manner. The transparent conduct of the elections would serve as a genuine test of the ECP’s credibility, he argued.

Furthermore, Haq called upon the chief justice of Pakistan to take action against the independent power producers (IPPs) agreements, which he identified as the root cause of exorbitant electricity tariffs. He asserted that those responsible for these costly agreements should be held accountable.

He pointed out that both the PPP and the PML-N governments had entered into expensive agreements with private companies, placing a heavy burden on the public. The PTI’s former government, he said, had continued these agreements, sharing responsibility with the previous ruling parties.

Haq advocated for a reduction in electricity tariffs, emphasizing that caretaker governments were not authorised to raise tariffs; rather, their responsibility was to ensure a peaceful environment for free and fair elections. He said that owing to inflated power bills, so far, at least 12 people have committed suicides and government officials are brutally beating up the power consumers unable to clear their power bills.

Haq criticised the past five years, which he said had witnessed widespread destruction in every sector. He asserted that the 16-month tenure of the PDM and PPP government had been a continuation of PTI rule. He said those who had initially led rallies against price hikes ultimately exacerbated inflation upon assuming power.

Siraj said that the PTI came into power on tall claims of providing 10 million jobs, building five million low-cost houses for the poor people and ending corruption in society but failed to fulfill any of the promises. Similarly, the PDM before coming into power also made tall claims but ended up handing over Pakistan to the International Monetary Fund.

He said the JI concluded the sit-in outside the Quetta Governor House on Sunday, reaffirming the party’s commitment to continue its struggle until the rights of the people were duly provided.

The protests are part of the JI’s ongoing campaign against inflation, which had previously included protest rallies in various cities of southern Punjab, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, and three-day sit-ins outside the Governor Houses in Peshawar and Lahore, he said, adding the JI intended to stage a sit-in outside the Karachi Governor House and, if the people’s demands were not met, would march on Islamabad. He reiterated the JI’s commitment to peaceful protests against inflation until their desired outcomes were achieved.

He called on the caretaker government to shift its focus from sending inflated power bills to consumers in a bid to recover the Rs 500 billion on account of line losses, Rs 550 billion electricity theft, and Rs 220 billion worth electricity provided to the various government employees free of cost. He further said that poor electricity consumers are paying around 15 taxes in their power bills including hundreds of billions of rupees in the name of capacity charges.

He pointed out that the ruling elite benefitted from free electricity, resulting in substantial losses to the national treasury, while the burden was unfairly borne by impoverished citizens.

Responding to questions, Haq said in case his party won the elections and came into power, instead of extending a begging bowl to the IMF and other international lenders, in the first phase, his party would rid the national economy of the interest-based financial system and enforce an Islamic financial system.

He said that at present, around 3.5 million people are registered taxpayers while potentially around 75 million are eligible to pay Zakat, so the JI will promote and enforce Zakat system which will generate sufficient financial resources to meet Pakistan’s requirements.

Moreover, the JI will also significantly cut current expenditures and introduce simplicity across the board which will also help reduce poverty.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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