Pakistan's Army has contradicted Prime Minister Imran Khan's remarks accusing America of hatching a conspiracy to topple his government, saying there was no evidence of interference in the country's internal matters, according to a media report. Meanwhile, Pakistan's election commission expressed its inability to hold general elections within three months due to legal, constitutional and logistical challenges, according to a media report.
Pakistan's Army has contradicted Prime Minister Imran Khan's remarks accusing America of hatching a conspiracy to topple his government, saying there was no evidence of interference in the country's internal matters, according to a media report.
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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on March 27 to discuss the issue of a threatening letter to remove his government.
A statement issued after the meeting expressed concern over the non-diplomatic language used in the cable, saying it was tantamount to interference in the internal matters of Pakistan. The NSC then decided to issue a demarche to the United States.
Khan pedalled the narrative that the Army top leaders endorsed the letter and its threatening context was genuine. Later, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Qasim Suri used the statement to block a vote on the no-trust move in a development that triggered a constitutional crisis.
However, official sources told The Express Tribune newspaper on Monday that a wrong impression was given about the military leadership endorsing the view of the government. One source said the the Pakistan PM could make the minutes of the meeting public because the NSC statement was only meant for the media. "Are there any minutes of the NSC meeting? Have all the participants signed on the minutes of the meeting," the source asked. He said that the minutes of the meeting are considered official documents only when all the participants of NSC sign. This suggests that the military leadership had not signed it.
The source further said that the US had not sent any letter to the government and it was the assessment of Pakistan's Ambassador to the US Masood Khan after his meeting with the US officials. The source said that there was no evidence of any linkage between the vote of no confidence and the diplomatic cable that had triggered the ongoing political and constitutional crises.
In a live address last week, 69-year-old Khan discussed a 'threat letter' and termed it as part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him as he was not acceptable for following an independent foreign policy. He named the US as the country behind the threat letter in what appeared to be a slip of tongue. The US State Department has firmly rejected Prime Minister Khan's remarks over Washington's role in an alleged foreign conspiracy to oust him from power.
America also asserted that it did not send any letter to Pakistan on the current political situation in the country as it sought to refute allegations of America's involvement in the no-confidence motion against the Imran Khan-led government. According to The Express Tribune report, another sign that the military leadership was reluctant to endorse the conspiracy allegations by the prime minister was the recent speech delivered by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The Chief of Army Staff said that Pakistan enjoyed an excellent and long-term relationship with the United States and that the US is Pakistan's largest export partner. The powerful Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's election commission expressed its inability to hold general elections within three months due to legal, constitutional and logistical challenges, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Pakistan's embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan stunned the Opposition on Sunday by recommending snap elections within three months, minutes after a no-confidence motion against him was dismissed by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly. Khan then got Pakistan President Arif Alvi to dissolve the 342-member National Assembly.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing on the deputy speaker's decision to reject the no-confidence motion against the Pakistan Prime Minister, who had lost majority in the lower house of Parliament.
According to the Dawn newspaper, a senior official of the Election Commission said due to fresh delimitation of constituencies, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the number of seats was increased under the 26th Amendment, and bringing district-and constituency-wise electoral rolls in conformity were the major challenges, the preparations for the general elections would require some six months.
Delimitation is a time-consuming exercise where the law provides for one month's time just to invite objections, the report said quoting the official. The official said procurement of election material, arrangement for ballot papers and appointment and training of polling staff were among the other inherent challenges.
Also Read: US says no letter sent to Pak, rejects allegations of involvement in no-confidence motion against PM: Report
He said that under the law, ballot papers with watermark were to be used which were not available in the country and hence they would have to be imported, and revealed that the top election body had proposed to amend the law to provide for ballot papers with security features', instead of water mark', the report said.
The official said inviting bids and scrutinizing financial and technical quotations would also require some time. About the election material, he said some two million stamp pads would be required for around 100,000 polling stations.
Referring to the legal hurdles, the official said that under Section 14 of the Elections Act, the Election Commission was poised to announce an election plan four months prior to the polls. He said the law requiring use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and giving overseas Pakistanis voting rights also held the field and had to be repealed.
The official said the commission had already announced the schedule for local government (LG) elections in Balochistan, setting May 29 as the polling day, while the process was also under way to hold LG polls in Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad. "We will have to drop the plan for LG polls, if general elections are to be conducted," he said.