Two former federal ministers respectively belonging to the PML-N and the PPP parties have said it was about time the country abandoned the concept of caretaker governments and strengthened the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the polls oversight authority.
“My view is that caretaker experience hasn’t delivered any benefit,” PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said while talking to The Express Tribune in the context of an observation of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which had recently called into question the legal status of caretaker governments.
“We should strengthen the ECP for conducting election and monitoring neutrality of administration during election cycle,” added Iqbal, who has served as the country’s planning and interior minister during the previous rules of the PML-N party.
He said that interim setups often lead to disruption and stalling. “Caretaker governments cause disruption and policy discontinuity, leading to stalling everything.”
PPP’s Shazia Marri, who served as the minister for poverty alleviation and social safety in the previous coalition government, said it was important to find a remedy for the caretaker governments as they only come for a limited period to assist the ECP in conducting free, fair and transparent elections.
She emphasized that the concept of caretaker setups should also be abandoned as it was given by a military dictator–General Ziaul Haq.
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Marri was of the view that the political parties should initiate a grand political dialogue to deliberate on caretaker setups’ concept and find an alternative. The issue is already being discussed in different circles and one can hope that it will be discussed after the general elections, she added.
Surprising as it may seem, the constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 did not mention caretaker governments. The concept of caretaker governments was added to the 1973 Constitution by Gen Zia, who held general elections in 1985 on non-party basis, a fact also highlighted by the SC on October 24.
“One objective of a caretaker government is to ensure transparent elections. However, the responsibility for transparent elections lies with another institution [ECP] as per the Constitution.
“When this responsibility is vested in the ECP, what is the need for a caretaker government?” Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa had said on October 24 while hearing a case with regard to holding timely elections in the country.
Recently, PML-N’s Barrister Zafarullah Khan and PTI’s Senator Ali Zafar also spoke on the subject in a talk show, stating that the concept of caretaker setup had not turned out to be a success.
Khan was in favour of ending caretaker setups through a constitutional amendment while Zafar was in favor of changing or improving the concept.
In Pakistan, a caretaker administration is a temporary government established to facilitate a seamless transfer of authority from one elected government to the next.
Its primary objective is to ensure uninterrupted functioning of the government, maintain law and order and assist the ECP in holding free, fair and transparent elections during this transitional phase.
Though the duration of a caretaker administration typically spans 60 to 90 days, depending on whether the National Assembly has completed its five-year term or it is prematurely dissolved.
Since the last National Assembly was dissolved three days before completion of its five-year term, the incumbent interim setup in the Centre was installed for 90 days.
However, it seems that the current interim government at the Center would continue functioning just like the ones in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province beyond its defined constitutional limits due to delay in announcement of general elections, which are scheduled for February 8.
The ECP was forced to go for fresh delimitation as the last coalition government notified census results just a few days before dissolving the National Assembly.
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