With general elections coming up on July 25th of this year, a caretaker government needs to be put in place to carry on administrating the country during the transitionary period. Decisions regarding this need to be reached through a cooperative agreement between the Prime Minister and the opposition leaders in the National Assembly.
As per stated rule a decision was made on the 28th of May by PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Leader of Opposition Khursheed Shah; Nasirul Mulk, former Chief Justice of Pakistan was named caretaker PM.
However, the question is which roles is this kind of appointed caretaker government allowed to play?
Here are the two topmost important objectives of a caretaker government:
- Remain impartial and govern within set limits during the period of power
- Ensure strict neutrality during the election period
To promote impartiality, under the 18th Amendment, both the members of the caretaker government and their familial relatives are barred from standing in the next election. Furthermore, all public officials (chief ministers, provincial ministers, governors etc.) including those appointed to the caretaker government cannot take part in any election campaign. The caretaker government also cannot be seen to support a particular party or individual during the elections in any way, direct or indirect, and cannot pursue any action which may hinder neutrality.
Under these strict conditions, the caretaker government:
1) Cannot make any permanent/binding/major appointments or changes in appointment to public office
2) Does not have the power to make decisions which may undermine the authority of the newly elected government
3)Cannot pursue new international negotiations or alter existing ones
4) Make drastic changes in policy
5) Act against the public interest in any way
However, it has been noted by Democracy Reporting International, a not-for-profit organization based in Berlin that advises on democratic matters all around the world, that in the past, due to failure in setting clear guidelines related to the decision-making power of the caretaker government, the setting up of such a government has resulted in confusion rather than a smoother transition.
In 2013 for example, a lot of precious time and resources had to be spent on looking over the appointment and transfer decisions made by the caretaker government, after which all were claimed null and void by the Supreme Court.
Thus, it may be important this year to provide stronger guidelines along with appointing competent, able candidates.