ISLAMABAD - Expressing its resolve to uphold its neutrality, the Federal Cabinet on Friday expressed commitment to play its due role in the provision of peaceful environment for holding free, fair and transparent elections in the country.

Briefing the media persons after the maiden cabinet meeting held here on Friday under the chair of caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, Information Minister Arif Nizami said that effective coordination would be maintained with the provinces for conduct of elections in a peaceful atmosphere.

Arif said Prime Minister Khoso has mandated the Interior Minister to take appropriate measures in coordination with the provincial governments to maintain law and order situation across the country so that it could not become an obstacle in the way of electoral process.

He further said that Federal Cabinet in its inaugural meeting had deliberated threadbare on law and order situation and worked out a comprehensive plan to maintain order during the interim period.

Information Minister further said that Prime Minister was committed to take all necessary steps to improve coordination with all stakeholders including the Election Commission of Pakistan.

He further said that the Prime Minister directed that all the government agencies would facilitate the conduct of free and fair elections and would be on the beck and call of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

He stated that the Prime Minister said that despite minimum time, the caretaker government’s resolve was strong.

“I strongly believe that elections would be held on time. Yes, there were efforts to sabotage the elections even before the announcement of election schedule. However, the government would tackle all such challenges,” he added.

Asked whether the strict scrutiny of nomination papers of the candidates could jeopardise the elections, he said that scrutiny was a new phenomenon for the politicians.  However, he said that the matter was under the domain of Election Commission and the government was nothing to do with it.  Asked to comment on questions being raised over the integrity and expertise of some members of the Federal Cabinet, he said that PM was very strict in this regard and he would ensure that the administration’s role remains neutral.

“If anyone is found below expectations, Khoso would take notice because questions against someone’s credibility would be a challenge. However, let me tell you that I have no such information,” he added.

Asked whether the Cabinet expansion would be made and new Ministers would be appointed to look after the subjects of finance, foreign affairs and defence, he said that the caretaker Cabinet would be lean.

However, he added, important matters of finance and foreign affairs needed to be looked after. “There is always a space for experts,” he added.

Asked whether the Cabinet was informed about the deployment of Armed Forces at polling stations, he said that no such discussion took place.

Responding to a query about his alleged reservations on Najam Sethi’s appointment as Chief Minister of Punjab, Arif Nizami said that he had not objected to the nomination of Najam Sethi.

“Rather, during a live TV show, I had appreciated the selection of Najam Sethi as Chief Minister Punjab,” he added. He said that Najam Sethi was a part of neutral caretaker government, which was a welcome sign.

He said that he would ensure that the State-owned media plays its role as neutral player during general elections.

He said that he would coordinate with the PTA, APNS and ECP to ensure timely and correct dissemination of information to all media outlets about the election results.

Earlier in his opening remarks caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso said, “In the selection of my Cabinet, commitment to the democratic process, integrity and competence have been my guiding criteria.”

Appreciating the political maturity shown by all the political parties across the spectrum, Khoso said that Article 224 of the Constitution provided the caretaker government’s only mandate was to hold elections to National and Provincial Assemblies and provide conducive atmosphere for conduct of these elections in smooth and transparent manner.

“The nation is facing multiple challenges. However, I am very confident that with the energy, zeal and experience of my Cabinet Colleagues, we would come up to the expectations of our nation and will help realise the dream of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the great philosopher Dr. Allama Iqbal,” he added.

Khoso further said, “Keeping in view the law & order situation in the country, I have already issued instructions to the Ministry of Interior to coordinate with all the stakeholders to evolve contingency plans to check the possibility of any untoward incident during the election campaign and the election day. I have also met with the Chief Ministers and stressed upon them the importance of these tasks”.

Expressing satisfaction over the participation of nationalist parties of Balochistan in electoral process, Khoso said all political parties in the country have faith in the electoral process and it was further vindicated by the overwhelming interest shown by the parties in filing of nomination papers in record numbers.

Referring to the limited time at the disposal of the caretakers, he urged his Cabinet colleagues to make significant contribution in the furtherance of the national interests, in which sustenance of the democratic process stands out prominently.

“I would urge all of you to immediately get to the task in hand, attend promptly to urgent issues pertaining to your respective Ministries, especially those of immediate public interest. We should also extend full cooperation to the Election Commission and the Provincial Governments to ensure fairness and transparency of the electoral process,” he said.