By Muhammad Zahid Raffat
Federal and provincial governments, irrespective of one or the other ruling parties, have either stepped down or in the process of doing so on the completion of their stipulated five years constitutional tenure. Likewise, the National Assembly as well as Provincial Assemblies of the Punjab, Sindh,Khyber Pukhtunkhwah and Balochistan have also been dissolved on completion of their tenures. According to the constitutional provisions, election to the National and Provincial Assemblies are to be held within 60 days of their being dissolved. Thus, the way for the caretaker sets up at the federal and provincial level has been paved.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has stepped down on May 31, 2018 on completion of tenure of the ruling party and retired Chief Justice of Pakistan former Justice Nasirul Mulk is taking over the reins of national affairs as Caretaker Prime Minister on June 1 for a period of 90 days.
Justice Nasirul Mulk ‘s name as the new Caretaker Prime Minister has been chosen as a result of consensus between outgoing Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah in accordance with the constitutional provisions in this regard. PM Abbasi and Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah held about half a dozen meetings in the past fortnight or so but failed to reach consensus on a name for the Caretaker Prime Minister. So much so, both of them had even announced that there will be no consultative meetings and the matter will be referred to the Parliamentary Committee.
However, they did meet on May 28 as a consequence of persuasion of National Assembly Sardar Ayyaz Sadiq and quite appreciably reached somewhat elusive consensus on the name of former Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasirul Mulk.
The caretaker Prime Minister will run the day to day national affairs with the help of a caretaker cabinet and more importantly and significantly ensure holding of general election to the National and Provincial Assemblies in a free, fair, transparent, neutral, peaceful and conducive environment and atmosphere in the country.
President Mamnoon Hussain has already announced general elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies will be held on the same day on July 25, 2018 for which the Election Commission of Pakistan is making all essentially required arrangements and the political parties are bracing themselves up for entering the election arena will full preparations and all the intentions for winning the polls at the national and provincial levels smoothly.
Though there had been frequent change of powers at the national level in the early years after creation of Pakistan and demise of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah but still there was no mention of any caretaker Prime Minister being appointed and holding of general elections accordingly.
Justice Nasirul Mulk is the 7th caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan historically and statistically speaking.
Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was as such the first caretaker Prime Minister who was so appointed on August 6, 1990 for a period of three months till November 6 , 1990 after PPP’s Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was dismissed on August 6, 1990 by President Ghulam Ishaque Khan on several charges. She had come into power as the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan as well as of the Islamic world on December 2,1988 and she remained in the office only for one year 8 months and four days.
In the election held after dismissal of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s PPP government, Nawaz Sharif had emerged victorious initially from the platform of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad but consequently changed to Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).He came into power on November 6, 1990 and was in office for two years 5 months and 12 days till April 18, 1993 when his government was also dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaque Khan.
Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari was named as the second caretaker Prime Minister and was in office from April 18, 1993 to May 26, 1993 for just one month and 8 days as Nawaz Sharif had won his case against dismissal from the Supreme Court of Pakistan and returned to office on May 26, 1993. He remained in office this time only for one month and 22 days as relations between him and President Ghulam Ishaque Khan continued to be tense. As a result of intervention by some forces, it was decided that both Nawaz Sharif and Ghulam Ishaque should resign their offices respectively. Accordingly, Nawaz Sharif resigned his office on July18, 1993. This was continuation of his first tenure in the office but circles also describe it as his second term which is not right as he had not taken fresh oath of office on his government being restored by the country’s apex court. Thus, Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi took over as third Caretaker Prime Minister on July 18, 1993 and remained in the office exactly for three months and one day stepping down after overseeing general elections in which PPP again emerged victorious. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s second term in office started on October 19, 1993 and ended abruptly after three years and 17 days when this time her government was dismissed on some charges by none else but PPP’s former Secretary General and her own nominated President Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari.
Malik Meraj Khalid thus became the fourth caretaker Prime Minister on November 5, 1996 and vacated the office after three months and 12 days. Nawaz Sharif’s second term after the fresh mid-term elections started from February 17, 1997 and ended after two years 7 months and 23 days when had suddenly tried to remove Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee/Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf while he was in midair returning home from Sri Lanka and in retaliation another coup was staged and Nawaz Sharif was ousted and arrested by military on October 12, 1999. Muhammad Mian Soomro was the fifth caretaker Prime Minister who remained in office for pretty longer period of four months and 9 days from November 16, 2007 to March 25, 2008.
Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was 6th caretaker Prime Minister who was in office for two months and 10 days from March 25, 2013 to June 4, 2013. Thus, Muhammad Mian Soomro became the caretaker Prime Minister who was in office for four months 9 days against the usually normal period of 90 days and Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari as the caretaker Prime Minister was in office for the shortest period of one month and 8 days. It is quite commendable and appreciable that democratic system is prevailing in the country since 2002 ad three political parties have completed their five years constitutional tem term each with more or less good records and achievements as per claims by leadership of each of Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam), Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
Many more interesting and disturbing facts and figures about Pakistan’s more than 70 years chequered political history, some other time.
(The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad. firstname.lastname@example.org)