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Keep calm and pick a PM

March 19, 2013

-Illustration by Mahjabeen Mankani.
-Illustration by Mahjabeen Mankani.

How often does dialogue solve anything in Pakistan? No, this is not a question meant to make you think about the war on terrorism or sectarian violence – this is in regards to the noise coming out of our politicians who are once again taking us for a ride, promising to find a way to nominate a caretaker PM for us as they make their way out.

Why is it this hard? A caretaker PM has to oversee the elections and ensure that the ECP remains within the Constitution as the polling process begins. However, the government and the opposition have been failing miserably thus far when it comes to short-listing and nominating candidates. Whether the dispute is over the fact that there exists no person who can be mutually trusted for this post or whether either side is not allowing itself to accommodate a candidate not nominated by them – the situation remains deplorable.

After leaving every institution of this country in shambles, the government may have caused the chants of ‘Democracy! Democracy!’ to soften up a bit but in no way has it killed them altogether. The country still remains keen to see the democratic process continue and a more honest and clean leadership to emerge soon. The battle of the consensus and clashing egos, however, is not really helping motivate voters who are cautiously waiting to exercise their right. Aptly pointed out by an editorial in Dawn today: 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.

‘No faith in their own kind’ seems rather obvious as we see names of judges and bureaucrats emerge as nominees – perhaps, we aren’t the only ones who don’t trust our politicians anymore. Still, it’s rather surprising that both sides could not think of a single name that seemed impartial and/or credible? Ever since the government revealed its choices, a public mockery is being made of this process as the ruling party and opposition continue to openly reject each other’s choices. But this lot of politicians who over the past five years did not even refrain from talking about their opponents’ private lives on television during a heated debate, how can we expect them to solve this dispute respectfully and discreetly.

Coming back to the possibility of nominating a candidate through dialogue, it appears unlikely that the issue will be resolved at the level of the outgoing prime minister and the leader of the opposition. What seems likely at this point is the decision being made by the parliamentary committee which could complicate things even further. New controversies and debates could crop up about which opposition parties get to be on the committee.

The PPP has already sent the names of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PPP leaders Farooq H. Naek and Khurshid Shah, and ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour to the speaker as its members for the parliamentary committee. The PML-N, however, is yet to send the names to the speaker. The next question that comes to mind with this is, will the opposition want a purely PML-N representation? The lack of JUI-F’s participation in the parliamentary committee could then mean that the committee may either not be formed or simply face rejection – not to mention, the deeper rifts that could emerge through this decision between the PML-N and the JUI-F who is already pretty disgruntled.

That could then lead us towards Article 224-A, where the decision would lie with the election commission, which would have only two days to choose from the shortened list of candidates (two each from either side). According to the constitutional timeline, March 24 is the final deadline.

With so much to do and such excitement that this process could exude, we instead shake our heads once again watching politicians argue and scream on television, justifying rather absurdly, why the decision of the caretaker can’t be taken care of. The politicians are once again allowing anti-democratic forces to reiterate their belief that democracy won’t work for this nation. Meanwhile, millions of others who have either come of voting age now, or have finally found a clean(ish) party to believe in, are waiting anxiously to rid this country of the leaders it does not deserve and instead bring in new ones who hopefully won’t dismay them as much. But once again, it seems as if our politicians are so accustomed to creating hurdles that even when there exists none, they start working overtime just to build them.


The writer is the Deputy Editor at