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Pakistan to get another caretaker regime after Shehbaz Sharif's resignation announcement. What are such govts?

There have been seven caretaker governments in Pakistan so far. They are tasked with overseeing routine, non-controversial and urgent matters and are expected to be unbiased towards any person or political party.

Aveek Banerjee Written By: Aveek Banerjee Islamabad Published on: July 19, 2023 14:31 IST
Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif announced that he will retire in
Image Source : AP Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif announced that he will retire in August.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has already announced that his government would hand over the power to a caretaker government before his tenure ends on August 13, 2023, ahead of the general elections set to be held in November.

Shehbaz's decision is a strong indication that the Pakistan National Assembly will be dissolved ahead of the general election. The head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, who was sworn in in April last year, also asserted that he was granted the “sacred responsibility” to run the country as the Prime Minister. 

How many caretaker governments have been appointed in Pakistan?

Notably, this is not the first time a caretaker authority will temporarily assume power in Pakistan. In fact, there have been seven caretaker Prime Ministers in Pakistan since 1990. Earlier, the President held discretionary powers to appoint a caretaker PM which has been since revoked in 2012.

Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi - Jatoi became the first caretaker PM of Pakistan on August 6, 1990, after the first government under Benazir Bhutto was dismissed by then-President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Jatoi, who was strong ally of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, later withdrew and formed his own party - National People's Party (NPP) - which sided with Benazir in the 1993 elections.

Balakh Sher Mazari - He was appointed as caretaker PM on April 18, 1993, again by then-President Ishaq Khan after the latter removed PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's government from power. However, his tenure was the shortest of all caretaker PMs, which ended when the Pakistan Supreme Court overturned the presidential order and reinstated Nawaz Sharif as PM.

Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi - Qureshi, who had previously served as the senior vice president of the World Bank, was voted both by the military establishment and the outgoing President Khan to become the caretaker PM on July 18, 1993. This came when Nawaz Sharif also resigned as PM. He was tasked with overseeing the third general elections in Pakistan in a period of five years at a time of a major political crisis in the country.

Malik Meraj Khalid - He was also part of the Pakistan Peoples' Party but later became known for strong political differences with Benazir Bhutto, leading to his being sacked in 1996. He was appointed as caretaker PM after Bhutto's government was dismissed on November 5, 1996. His tenure ended with PML-N's victory in the 1997 general election.

Muhammad Mian Soomro - Soomro assumed the longest tenure as caretaker Pakistan PM for four months and eight days. He was appointed on November 15, 1997, as the National Assembly dissolved after completing five years. He was handpicked by General Pervez Musharraf. He also served as acting President of Pakistan after Musharraf's resignation.

Mir Hazar Khan Khoso - Justice Khoso was appointed as caretaker PM by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on March 24, 2013, after a bipartisan committee failed to reach a consensus over the selection of a candidate. Nawaz Sharif managed to return as PM in the subsequent elections, thus ending his tenure.

Nazirul Mulk - Mulk was named as the caretaker PM on May 31, 2018, after then-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi agreed on a candidate with the opposition leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah. This also happened after the dissolution of the National Assembly post the completion of its five-year tenure. Mulk's tenure ended when ex-cricketer Imran Khan assumed power in August 2018.

How is a caretaker government appointed in Pakistan?

The caretaker government is appointed in Pakistan after the outgoing Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition give the nod for it. If they fail to agree on a name, the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader will forward their names to a bipartisan committee to zero in on one name within a given time period.

If the committee also fails, the Election Commission of Pakistan receives the same names and chooses one of them to serve as Prime Minister. The caretaker Prime Minister appoints a Cabinet to manage the government's activities, and he leaves office as soon as the newly elected Prime Minister takes the oath of office.

What are the requirements of a caretaker government?

A caretaker government, by Pakistani law, is tasked to oversee day-to-day matters important for the government, but is not allowed to take major policy decisions except urgent matters. A caretaker government is also supposed to restrict itself to routine, non-controversial and reversible matters.

A caretaker Prime Minister is expected to be an impartial person towards any person or political party. However, in some cases it has been found that caretaker governments have overstepped their boundaries, such as in 2013, where all appointments, transfers and holdings by the interim authority were revoked by the Supreme Court.

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