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EDITORIAL: In most parliamentary democracies the incumbent governments continue in office till holding of election and formation of a new government. But in Pakistan, the trust deficit being as low as it is, the Constitution provides a process for the installation of a neutral caretaker administration to conduct routine affairs and facilitate elections.

That though has not stopped the outgoing Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi and the outgoing Leader of the Opposition Hamza Shehbaz from creating a contentious issue over the appointment of caretaker chief minister. A pretty straightforward process is being made subject of disputation.

As per Article 224 (1A) of the Constitution, they were to name two candidates each for the selection of any one of them for the position. Elahi proposed three names (instead of two, though the third one was later dropped): Nasir Mahmood Khosa, a well-regarded former chief secretary; Nawaz Sukhera, currently serving as Cabinet Division Secretary; and Naseer Akram Cheema, another former bureaucrat.

Apparently, Khosa was acceptable to the opposition but he politely declined to take up the job. Nonetheless, it seemed to have no intention to appoint a consensus candidate when the opposition nominated Ahad Cheema, a tarnished former bureaucrat and Mohsin Naqvi, a media house owner, known for their close association with the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) and PPP (Pakistan People’s Party), respectively.

It is important to note that a certain constitutional provision privileges a panel of six lawmakers, three each from the opposition and treasury benches, to select a caretaker chief minister from among the nominees. The panel failed to evolve consensus on any name and the issue ultimately landed in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) jurisdiction or domain to make the appointment. The ECP went for Mohsin Raza Naqvi, who has been sworn in as the caretaker chief minister. The PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) supremo, Imran Khan, has announced countrywide protest demonstrations against the appointment of Naqvi by ECP.

It increasingly appears that PTI feels that the odds are stacked against them and they may have reasons to claim that instead of playing by the rules (meant to ensure neutrality) the opposition is playing with the rules to have its way. But the process as laid down in the Constitution must be respected even if it is inconvenient to them in the present charged atmosphere. It has been put in place precisely to make such appointments free of controversy. It is sad, to say the least, that the political parties making big policy decisions for the country cannot decide in an amicable manner such a simple but important matter as to who should oversee the electoral exercise.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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