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In August 2023, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar assumed the charge of interim Prime Minister of Pakistan, marking the commencement of the eighth caretaker government. With general elections held yesterday, the tenure of this interim administration is near to ending.

However, critics have expressed reservations regarding the expanded responsibilities undertaken by the caretaker government as these have extended beyond the traditional scope of a transitional authority. Section 230 of the Elections Act 2017 mandates a caretaker government to fulfill various functions, delineating its duties and responsibilities during the transitional period.

The text of section 230 of the Elections Act 2017, as amended by Elections (Second Amendment) Act, 2023, dated 5th August, 2023, reads as under:

  1. Functions of caretaker Government.– (1) A caretaker Government shall–

(a) perform its functions to attend to day-to-day matters which are necessary to run the affairs of the Government;

(b) assist the Commission to hold elections in accordance with law;

(c) restrict itself to activities that are of routine, non-controversial and urgent, in the public interest and reversible by the future Government elected after the elections; and

(d) be impartial to every person and political party.

(2) The caretaker Government shall not:

(a) take major policy decisions except on urgent matters;

(b) take any decision or make a policy that may have effect or pre-empt the exercise of authority by the future elected Government;

(c) enter into major contract or undertaking if it is detrimental to public interest;

(d) enter into major international negotiation with any foreign country or international agency or sign or ratify any international binding instrument except in an exceptional case;

(e) make promotions or major appointments of public officials but may make acting or short term appointments in public interest;

(f) transfer public officials unless it is considered expedient and after approval of the Commission; and

(g) attempt to influence the elections or do or cause to be done anything which may, in any manner, influence or adversely affect the free and fair elections:

Provided that sub-sections (1) and (2) shall not apply where the caretaker Government has to take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements or the projects already initiated under the Public Private Partnership Authority Act, 2017 (VIII of 2017), the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Act, 2022 (XXX of 2022) and the Privatization Commission Ordinance, 2000 (LII of 2000).

(3) The Prime Minister, Chief Minister or a Minister or any other members of a Caretaker Governments shall, within three days from the date of assumption of office, submit to the Commission a statement of assets and liabilities including assets and liabilities of his spouse and dependent children as on the preceding 30th day of June on Form B and the Commission shall publish the statement of assets and liabilities in the official Gazette.

(4) In this section, “caretaker Government” means the caretaker Federal Government or a caretaker Provincial Government.

Stepping into their role during a period of heightened political division and economic instability, the outgoing caretaker government assumed responsibility for steering the nation’s affairs.

Faced with a situation marked by polarization and economic challenges of unprecedented magnitude, they encountered widespread speculation suggesting a potential deferment of the upcoming elections.

However, dispelling all uncertainties, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a resounding decree, affirming the scheduled date of February 8, 2024.

Since the proclamation of the electoral schedule, the federal caretaker government has been diligently collaborating with the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure the seamless execution of electoral processes in strict adherence to legal stipulations.

Their steadfast commitment to upholding democratic principles and facilitating a smooth transition of power underscores their pivotal role in safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process and fostering political stability.

The caretaker government, particularly of Punjab, has embarked on and successfully executed numerous developmental initiatives within a short time.

Several large-scale projects have reached completion, while various others remain actively underway, showing the caretakers’ commitment to propel infrastructural advancements and socio-economic growth during the transitional period.

As election activities unfolded, the momentum of these developmental initiatives escalated to address critical needs and enhancing overall welfare of the populace.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a prominent and popular political party in Pakistan, has encountered formidable challenges following its removal from power in April 2022 through a successful no-confidence vote.

Struggling to reconcile with this political setback, PTI found itself ensnared in a cycle of discord, characterized by a lack of tolerance and an inclination towards confrontation. In the aftermath of their ouster, PTI embarked on an aggressive campaign, leveling accusations of political malfeasance against key state institutions, thereby exacerbating tensions.

A relentless rhetoric of the party’s upper echelons, fomented resentment and incited retaliatory actions among its die-hard workers and followers. This discontent culminated in an outbreak of violence on May 9, 2023, triggered by Imran Khan’s arrest resulting in the tumultuous aftermath turning the spotlight on the volatile nature of Pakistan’s political landscape and the ramifications of intolerance and confrontations in governance.

Followers perpetrated widespread attacks and vandalism on numerous state properties throughout the country with a troubling focus on the armed forces and defense installations—an unprecedented occurrence in Pakistan’s history. This regrettable series of events plunged the nation into grief and unrest, as efforts to sow panic and disharmony unfolded unexpectedly.

In response, the government and state institutions swiftly moved to initiate legal proceedings against all those implicated in the acts of violence.

Presently, top leadership of PTI is behind bars facing convictions and many have voiced concerns regarding fairness of their treatment and their right to contest elections. Despite these grievances raised by PTI, the caretaker setup showed firmness to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable.

On economic front, the interim government has achieved significant strides, particularly culminating in the successful completion of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) initial review under the 9-month US$3 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA).

This has paved the way for Pakistan to access immediate disbursements totaling SDR 528 million, equivalent to US$ 700 million. Adherence to the prescribed economic framework has garnered acknowledgment from the IMF team, signifying a reduction in external pressures and stabilization of overall economic activity within Pakistan.

There are also discernible signs of an uptick in economic momentum. Particularly, a marked improvement in the current account balance, heralding the dissipation of erstwhile clouds of uncertainty looming over the economic landscape.

This progress confirms the caretaker government’s commitment to steering the nation towards financial stability within the parameters of the IMF’s stipulated guidelines.

Following yesterday’s elections, the incoming government is going to face multifaceted challenges spanning economic, political, judicial, and foreign policy arenas.

Expectations run high among the populace, with hopes pinned on alleviating the burden of high inflation and ushering in policies conducive to business growth, including a reduction in the policy rate to single digits.

Balancing these competing demands will undoubtedly pose a formidable task for the new government. Foremost among the challenges will be restoring fiscal discipline and bolstering foreign exchange reserves to facilitate essential imports for businesses.

Furthermore, navigating IMF programme’s conditions presents a critical litmus test for the incoming government, necessitating adherence to agreed conditions without exacerbating the economic difficulties already faced by the populace.

Strategic recalibration of our foreign policy is imperative, with emphasis on nurturing relationships not only with traditional allies like the United States but also with key players in the Middle East, Europe, China, and Russia.

The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine reverberate across the global economy, with major powers pursuing their vested interests. As a nation of significant geo-political importance in the international arena, Pakistan finds itself under mounting pressure, fielding numerous offers and confronting myriad challenges on handling foreign policy for which unity within Pakistan is critical.

Revitalising diplomatic ties and strategically positioning, country’s interests on the global stage assumes critical importance. The incoming government’s efficacy in addressing these challenges will be a litmus test of elected leadership, as it strives to balance international obligations along with the welfare of its citizens. Success will hinge on the government’s ability to manage these issues adeptly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Dr Ikramul Haq

The writer is a lawyer and author of many books, and Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of management Sciences (LUMS) as well as member of Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He can be reached at [email protected]

Huzaima Bukhari

The writer is a lawyer and author of many books, and Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of management Sciences (LUMS), member of Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). She can be reached at [email protected]

Abdul Rauf Shakoori

The writer is a US-based corporate lawyer, and specialises in white collar crimes and sanctions compliance. He has written several books on corporate and taxation laws of Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Az_Iz Feb 09, 2024 06:24am
The caretaker government did a great job. Thank you.
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