National Assembly stands dissolved as second successive democratic government completes five-year term
At the stroke of midnight on Thursday, the National Assembly's constitutionally mandated tenure of five years expired, making way for the caretaker setup which will now oversee the country's affairs till the general elections on July 25, 2018.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs issued a notification announcing the dissolution of the 14th National Assembly at midnight on May 31, 2018.
Former chief justice Nasirul Mulk has already been named as the caretaker prime minister. The job of the caretaker PM is to keep the country running between the dissolution of parliament and the new government being sworn in.
The notification was issued in line with Article 52 of the Constitution, which states simply that: "The National Assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, continue for a term of five years from the day of its first meeting and shall stand dissolved at the expiration of its term."
Copies of the notification have been sent to the Prime Minister's Office and the Aiwan-i-Sadr (Presidency), as well as all provinces, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the National Assembly and Senate.
Schedule for elections announced
Separately, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also announced the final schedule for general elections.
As per the schedule, a public notice will be issued on June 1 (tomorrow) notifying the formal start of the election schedule.
Once the notice is issued, all candidates will be able to apply for nomination papers.
The nomination papers can be submitted for scrutiny from June 2 till June 6. From June 7, the ECP will start vetting the candidates. The vetting will continue till June 14.
Candidates and their rivals will be able to appeal the ECP's decision to reject or approve nominations by June 19. The decisions on these appeals will be given by June 26.
The final list of candidates will be issued by June 27, and all shortlisted candidates will have till June 28 to withdraw their nomination papers.
Then, on June 29, the ECP will allot election symbols and bow out to allow the candidates to begin their campaigns in earnest.
In an informal chat outside the commission, the ECP secretary dispelled rumours that the authority had been barred from issuing the schedule at any point.
"We are ready for the election," he said.
He revealed that the raw material for the ballot papers was being imported from France and the UK. Half of it will land in Karachi, and the other half in Islamabad. The ballots will be printed under the army's oversight.
"There has been no decision yet on the deployment of the military to ensure security on election day," he said to another question. "The matter will be taken up with the caretaker government."
He also clarified that there was no bar on foreign observers and media observing the election. "We have issued a code of conduct in this regard," he said.
NA approves increase in president's salary
As its last legislative action, the outgoing National Assembly on Thursday passed the bill seeking an exorbitant increase of over 530 per cent in the salary of the president.
Although the opposition had raised objections on the bill at the time of its introduction on May 24, they did not put up any resistance during its passage.
The bill, introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, suggests that the president’s salary be increased to Rs846,550 from the existing pay of Rs133,333.
On Wednesday, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance headed by former law minister Farooq Naek of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had approved the bill with a majority vote after the opposition members termed the move to present the bill before the committee unconstitutional and illegal. The opposition members were of the view that the bill should have come through the Senate.