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Pointless delay: Selecting interim set-ups

March 19, 2013

STRICTLY speaking, they are operating within the bounds of the constitution. But as our politicians try to pick a caretaker prime minister and chief ministers, they are only behaving in a way that undermines the democratic milestone within reach. Having held on for five years, they could have led the country into its first uninterrupted change of government in a way that inspired voters’ confidence and enthusiasm. Instead, the chaos and politicking of the last few days make them look like immature opportunists with no faith in their own kind.

One thing is quite clear: the preponderance of judges and bureaucrats among the nominees for caretaker prime minister indicate our politicians don’t think each other capable of credibility and impartiality. But even the process of selecting from among non-political names has become heavily politicised. The government revealed its choices very late in the game. Since then, the opposition and the ruling party have been publicly rejecting each other’s candidates rather than efficiently sorting out the issue behind closed doors, thereby increasing uncertainty among a population already living in perpetually volatile circumstances. The parliamentary-committee stage could be even worse; it has the potential to raise new controversies about which opposition parties get to be on the committee. Thankfully there does seem to be an acknowledgement that the matter is best resolved before it goes to the Election Commission of Pakistan, a result that would demonstrate the complete inability of politicians to deal with the responsibilities that have come with the strengthening of the democratic system.

With the exception of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, matters are even worse at the provincial level, with little apparent movement towards an interim set-up in Punjab and Sindh. The less said about Balochistan the better; as of this writing the way forward there was entirely unclear, with lack of clarity even about who the leader of the opposition is and whether the chief minister enjoyed a majority when the assembly was dissolved. Making this more frustrating is the fact that, under a newly empowered ECP, the caretaker chief executives will be little more than administrative heads in office for two months. And that the decisions about selecting them for the centre and for most of the provinces are essentially in the hands of two people, the president and the PML-N chief. Put these two realities together, and the inability to settle the issue is beginning to border on the ridiculous.