After Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif dissolved the country’s Parliament on Wednesday (August 9) – three days before the legislative body would have completed its five-year tenure – he and opposition leader Raja Riaz agreed on Saturday to name Senator Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar as caretaker premier.
Under Pakistan’s constitution, a neutral caretaker government oversees the national elections, which must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the parliament’s lower house. This means elections are ideally to be held around early November.
Kakar, 52, hails from the southwestern province of Balochistan and will name a cabinet and head the caretaker government. According to the channel Geo News, he studied in Quetta and later went to London for his higher education, returning to Pakistan in 2005.
President Arif Alvi approved Kakar’s appointment, the president’s office said in a statement. He is not particularly well-known even within the political circles of Pakistan. A member of the outgoing ruling coalition told the Pakistani media organisation Dawn that Kakar was a “surprise” for many in the alliance government itself.
He has been serving a six-year term in Pakistan’s Senate since 2018, according to its official website.
But while Kakar is listed as an independent politician by the Senate, he was reported by local media to be a part of the Balochistan Awami Party, which is widely considered to be close to the military. Balochistan is a region bordering Afghanistan and has witnessed internal turmoil at times.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf or PTI, the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, expressed hope that Kakar would ensure free, fair and credible elections. “If there are questions over the credibility of elections, there will be no political stability, which is critical for economic certainty,” former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is currently leading Khan’s party, said in a TV interview.
While the Parliament was close to completing its full term, continued political and economic turmoil may have been behind the decision. Days prior, on August 5, Imran Khan was arrested and convicted of corruption charges in the Toshkhana case and sentenced to three years in prison. He is now barred from contesting elections for five years.
At the same time, a digital census of 2023 was approved in haste recently by a constitutional body called the “Council of Interests”, consisting of the Pakistan PM, four Chief ministers of Pakistan’s provinces, and three members nominated by the PM (usually cabinet ministers) recently. It has put Pakistan’s population to be at 24 crore, up from 21 crore in the 2017 census.
Now, the law mandates that there should be delimitation or drawing up of constituencies based on the changes in population before the next elections, and that process would officially take 120 days, leading to possible delays in the election.
Further, since July 1 a series of legislative changes have been introduced that will now let the caretaker government take far-reaching decisions beyond day-to-day affairs rather than play a nominal role. It is being speculated that through an Army-backed caretaker PM, the Pakistan Army will bring about some changes in the country’s political and economic setup.
(With Reuters inputs)