Victory of a low-key Justice Khoso
Of the four nominated by the erstwhile Treasury and Opposition for the slot of caretaker prime minister former Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was the least controversial, and at the end of the day this appears to have won him the day. Not that the other three were less deserving. Everyone of them is a man of great personal integrity and has the required potential to deliver. But their candidatures could not escape the enlarging shadows of the parties who proposed their nominations.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
As soon as the nominations were made public the proposing sides unleashed enormous propaganda to run down each other's nominees, and in the process undercut their own authority to reach consensus. This was against the spirit of the constitutional provision that the outgoing Treasury and the Opposition in the National Assembly should jointly decide appointment of the caretaker prime minister. Having co-existed in most hostile and non-co-operative ambience for five years, the two sides tended to see the caretaker interregnum as yet another bout for contentious politics. As if they could not believe that the caretaker set-up is essentially a stopgap arrangement to meet the requirement of day-to-day governance, and should be absolutely neutral, impartial and apolitical with no personal axe to grind. Happily, all of it is over. And happily also, the ECP decision has been accepted by almost all parties including the PML (N) which had opposed his nomination in the earlier two stages of the appointment process.
Having served as chief justice of Balochistan High Court and Federal Shariat Court as well as provincial governor, former Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso is suitably experienced for the job that he has been put in place by the ECP. If he appears to be a low-key laid-back retired judge it may be so. But if what he said in his short ripostes to the media on his selection is any indictors then we need to look behind that relaxed posture. If I cannot ensure elections on time I will give up and go home, he has conveyed to the doubting toms who still think that the caretaker set-up may live beyond its stipulated tenure. Irrespective of who supported him and who did not, he has promised equal treatment to all shades of political and public opinion. But that said, one would be reluctant to buy the suggestion that Mir Hazar Khan Khoso's task would be any less daunting. Accepted, that he is not expected to initiate entirely new programmes and that he is merely a stopgap arrangement but the Constitution does not cast him in that role. Under the Constitution he is the prime minister of Pakistan, the country's chief executive with rights and obligations that go with his post. He is not to be just another caretaker prime minister, like the ones we had when the President enjoyed all powers under the now-demised Article 58(2)b of the Constitution. In the next 50 days or so, as long as he is the prime minister, it is just possible that he may be asked by the Supreme Court to implement its orders/decisions which his predecessor Raja Pervez Ashraf did not. How well Prime Minister Khoso acquits himself of, it would be an interesting part of our history.
Of course uncertainty that abounded throughout the week as political leadership wrestled with the challenge of selecting a caretaker prime minister is over - but the dust kicked up by its colossal failure refuses to settle. The fact is that the procedure introduced by the 20th Amendment for the purpose is grossly laconic and what we saw over the last week will be aptly repeated if this provision is not suitably reworded. There are many problems with it, the most basic being that the parties whose public mandate has expired, have no moral authority to put in place a system that is expected to be absolutely unburdened and un-obligated to the outgoing set-up. Given our peculiar political culture it was only natural that the Treasury and the Opposition failed to reach consensus. Then there is the problem with the parliamentary committee stage, which is expected to clinch an agreement when their leaders have already failed. When the Leader of the House Raja Pervez Ashraf had rejected candidature of former Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, and Leader of the House had stoutly stood by it there was no question of their party members conceding their ground. The three days set apart for the parliamentary committee was a sheer waste of national time. Ideally, the issue of caretaker prime minister's appointment should have been decided anytime before the National Assembly went out of business. Had it been problematic there the issue should have been passed on to the Election Commission, and in that the transition would have taken place without all the drama we were helplessly watching over the last week. We hope the next elected government would look into this and amend the Constitution accordingly.