| Shehbaz says NSC statement on ‘regime change’ has exposed Imran Khan’s allegations | Anarchy in name of street protests won’t be allowed | New army chief to be appointed as per constitution | Reiterates to overcome economic challenges through hard work | Armed Forces are real defenders of country | No other option but to have strong Pak-US ties | Govt investigating Karachi suicide blast

ISLAMABAD   -  Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Tuesday that elections will be held only after electoral reforms, signalling that the upcoming street protest campaign by opposition leader Imran Khan will have little or no bearing on when the country gets to vote on a new government.

The prime minister reiterated that the foreign conspiracy accusations peddled by the former prime minister Khan have been debunked after the National Security Committee statement last week, but did not rule out the possibility of a judicial commission to further probe the matter.

PM Shehbaz Sharif made the remarks Tuesday evening at the Prime Minister House as he hosted editors, bureau chiefs and senior journalists over an informal interactive session and Iftar dinner. Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were also present on the occasion. In a wide-ranging question and answer session, the PM candidly expressed his views on the state of the economy, the appointment of the new army chief, relations with America, China and Saudi Arabia and domestic politics.

Earlier, while making a short address to the participants, PM Sharif said that the Prime Minister House was now a democratic setting after the success of no-confidence motion earlier this month, a first in the country’s history.

Responding to a question about whether he has started the consultations for the appointment of a new army chief as the current army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has made it clear that he would retire on the due date in November and would not seek an extension, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the due process of the appointment of new army chief would take place in accordance with the law and constitution.

Shehbaz Sharif stressed that the economic situation was grave due to the PTI’s mismanagement, but expressed the hope that with hard work and singular focus, the challenge could be overcome.

“It is a very difficult challenge, a very difficult situation and yet it is not impossible (to overcome),” PM Sharif remarked.

PM Shehbaz also accused President Arif Alvi of committing a violation of the constitution by not implementing the verdict of the Lahore High Court.

“Honourable President Alvi is violating the constitution, first by issuing the dissolution order of the national assembly and now delaying the implementation of the orders of the Lahore High Court,” the prime minister said.

When asked to comment on the anti-military campaign on social media, the PM strongly condemned it and said the Armed Forces of Pakistan are defenders of the motherland and they have rendered sacrifices for the defence of the country.

When asked about the accountability process during the PTI government, he said the previous government carried out victimisation in the name of accountability, however, he strongly believes that strong and fair accountability is imperative for society. He ruled out political vendetta, but said ‘law will take its course’ if some illegality and corruption is found in the previous regime’s record.

Responding to the PTI protests, he said anarchy and lawlessness would not be allowed, and all measures would be taken to prevent such violence.

About the Karachi terrorism incident which resulted in the death of Chinese and Pakistani nationals, the PM expressed his condolences and said the government is holding an investigation and those responsible would be awarded exemplary punishment.

Responding to the foreign conspiracy claim of former PM Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif said in the recent National Security Committee meeting, the committee did not find any conspiracy as claimed by Imran Khan.

Talking about the Pak-US relations, the PM said Pakistan has no other option except to have strong ties with the United States and expressed the hope that the damaged ties will be repaired under his government.