Pakistan’s finance minister opposes snap polls mandated by top court


Islamabad (Reuters) – Provincial snap elections are not in Pakistan’s national interest given its economic turmoil and security situation, the country’s finance minister said on Monday, in defiance of an order by the country’s supreme court.

His comments raise the risk of constitutional deadlock to compound the country’s political and economic upheaval

In a victory for former prime minister Imran Khan, the court last week mandated the elections, which have been rejected by parliament.

The court set Monday as the deadline for the government to issue funds – 21 billion Pakistani rupees ($73.4 million) – to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and told the ECP to report back to it on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday put forward a financial bill to seek a vote on whether to approve the election funding. It was not clear when a vote would take place.

“The country’s economic, security and internal conditions demand that snap polls aren’t in the national interest,” he said in a televised speech to parliament.

He suggested holding the elections together in all provinces and national seats, saying that would reduce logistics and security expenses, which according to the house speaker was later adopted in a resolution in the parliament.

The supreme court ordered snap polls in the most populated Punjab province to be held on May 14, and said a date could be agreed later for the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, pending some technical issues.

Khan had ordered the dissolution of local governments run by his party in the two provinces to try to force the government to hold elections that are not due until October across the country.

He has been campaigning across Pakistan since he was ousted in a parliamentary no confidence vote in April last year.

The country’s crises have worsened meanwhile.

To try to counter a resurgence in attacks, the government over the weekend also announced a country-wide military offensive against Islamist militants.

Pakistan is also in danger of defaulting on its debt. An International Monetary Fund bailout has been stalled since November, while its central bank’s foreign exchange reserves would cover just four weeks of imports, and inflation exceeds 35%.

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