Pakistani caretaker PM assuages fears of stretched rule, says only here for ‘limited period’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani caretaker prime minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar said on Tuesday his government would rule only for a “limited period of time” to fulfill its constitutional mandate of organizing general elections.

Kakar’s comments come amid widespread fears that elections, which were due in November, might be delayed to February and beyond. Under the constitution, general elections must be held within 90 days after the National Assembly’s dissolution. However, the outgoing Sharif government’s decision to approve the results of the 2023 digital census before it dissolved the Assembly on Aug. 9 meant the election regulator would be required to redraw hundreds of constituencies as per those results.

Last week, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued a notification outlining its plan to finalize the delimitation of federal and provincial constituencies by December 14, meaning polls would not take place within the customary 90-day period and could be delayed until February.

Political analysts say if the caretaker set-up stretches beyond its constitutional tenure, a prolonged period without an elected government would allow the military – which already has an outsized role in Pakistani politics and security, economic and foreign policy – to consolidate control.

“We are here as a constitutional continuation for a limited period of time. We are here not to design the governance model or structure,” Kakar told his cabinet in televised remarks.

“As a continuation of the previous government, we generally are supposed to carry on with the general policy and work, until and unless we feel there is a violation of rules of business … Our role is to assist and monitor the electoral process which is the constitutional requirement.”

Two major Pakistani political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the former Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have rejected the timeline for redrawing of national and provincial constituencies announced by the election regulator, but the ECP says it is constitutionally bound to “delimit constituencies after every census officially published.”

A delay would likely heighten the political strains in Pakistan, which has seen now opposition leader Imran Khan removed as prime minister by a no-confidence vote by parliament in April 2022 and his imprisonment this year after a graft conviction.

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