President Arif Alvi has dissolved the National Assembly at outgoing PM Shehbaz Sharif’s advice, marking an end to the current government’s tenure three days ahead of its mandated period.
As the assembly stands dissolved, all the cabinet members have ceased to hold office. PM Shehbaz Sharif will continue to perform his duties as the premier until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister.
It was during the exciting distribution of laptops to students in late July that PM Shehbaz Sharif declared that next month our government will complete its tenure, but we will leave before the completion of our tenure and an interim government will come in.
The five-year term of the incumbent National Assembly started on August 12, 2018, and thus it could have technically remained active until August 12, 2023, however, the PM ordered it to dissolve prematurely.
PM Shehbaz Sharif and the Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz now have three days as per the Constitution to finalize a name for the caretaker prime minister. However, if they fail to agree on a name, the matter will go to a committee formed by the NA Speaker that will finalize a name for the interim premier within 3 days.
However, if the committee is unable to make a decision within the stipulated period, the names of the nominees will go to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The commission then has two days to make the final decision from the names proposed by the opposition and the government.
It is worth noting here that the National Assembly has only reached the end of its term twice, once in 2013 and again in 2018.
The caretaker cabinet has one primary job: to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections in the country. Apart from that, the caretaker government is also responsible for executing the routine functions of the government.
The caretaker setup has to be impartial and not have any political affiliations so that it does not try to interfere in the election process or sway it in a certain direction.
As defined in Chapter XIV of the Elections Act 2017, a caretaker government shall perform its functions to attend to day-to-day matters, which are necessary to run the affairs of the government and assist the Commission to hold elections in accordance with law.
It will restrict itself to activities that are routine, non-controversial, urgent, in the public interest, and reversible by the future government elected after the elections and be impartial to every person and political party.
The caretaker government shall not take major policy decisions except on urgent matters, will not take any decision, or make a policy that may have an effect or pre-empt the exercise of authority by the future elected government. It will not enter into a major contract or undertaking if it is detrimental to the public interest.
It will not 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, nor make promotions or major appointments of public officials but may make acting or short-term appointments in the public interest.
The caretaker government will not transfer public officials unless it is considered expedient and after approval of the Commission, nor will it 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.
It is significant to note here that those who serve in the caretaker cabinets, including the interim PM and CMs, along with their immediate family members, are not eligible to run in the next elections for the assemblies.