IRSHAD SALIM (May 22, 2018) — The 5-year term of the present PML-N government comes to an end on May 31, after which the caretaker set-up will be put in place to hold elections which are expected to be held in the last week of July.
The formation of a caretaker setup will be preceded by the successful ending of a second democratically elected 5-year civilian setup completing its full term as part of the ongoing project democracy in the country that saw Pakistan Peoples Party rule for the first 5-year during the period 2008-2013.
The outgoing party and the opposition on bipartisan basis are in discussions to agree who the caretaker prime minister shall be for the interim period (90 days) until a new setup is ushered in.
While PML-N as the ruling party, PPP and PTI as the main parties in the opposition camp are still debating the matter, PML-N has not publicly indicated who it seeks to lead the interim setup although a media report says the ruling PML-N has suggested names of former chief justice of Pakistan Justice (retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk, Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani – also a former chief justice – and former State Bank governor Dr Shamshad Akhtar.
“It does not (however) want the matter to become “an issue” at this stage with so many already on its plate, one source said.
According to a few informed politicos, PML-N may therefore yield towards PPP’s suggestions for caretaker PMship, as they said, “it had tacitly supported the former during election of Khakan Abbasi as PM after ouster of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister” — the court last year asked Sharif to step down as PM and had disqualified him for life — even from holding the party’s top position, subsequent to Panamagate case verdict.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was considering the names of former ambassador to US Jalil Abbas Jilani, former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Zaka Ashraf and former defense secretary Salim Abbas Jilani for the office of the caretaker prime minister.
And the PTI last month had leaked the names of its candidates for the office of the caretaker PM to the media. Its nominees were former chief justice of Pakistan Tasadduq Hussain Jilani, businessman Abdur Razzaq Dawood and economist Dr Ishrat Husain.
Analysts say whoever is appointed caretaker PM even for the short-term period must have a stack of skills and experience in diplomacy and economy — both having become existentially crucial for the country — Pakistan is engaged in a hybrid war, has not-so-happy neighbors to deal with, and a rising debt with dwindling foreign reserves to tackle going forward.
Having said that, whether political interests of parties as usual will dictate the choice of interim PM or national interests will influence their decision is anybody’s guess, said one several observers and several media sources.
The political setup is expected to make the announcement of caretaker PM on Tuesday May 22, according to local media reports.
If the parties fail to agree on the selection, the Election Commission may make the appointment of the caretaker PM as his main function would be to hold free, fair and transparent national and provincial elections. In such case, a dark horse may appear, one politico said while adding a caveat: “Key variables of project democracy and national interests may override all considerations” – not politics or polemics as usual.