Sunday, July 14, 2024

Pakistan appoints new caretaker cabinet for upcoming elections

Pakistan swore in a caretaker cabinet under interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar in Islamabad on Thursday. It comes as fresh elections are set to be held in November or later.

The caretaker cabinet’s top job will be to lead Pakistan towards economic stabilisation, with the $350 billion economy treading a narrow recovery path after getting a last minute $3 billion bailout deal from the International Monetary Fund, averting a sovereign debt default.

The election commission said on Thursday that new constituencies based on the latest census would be finalized by Dec. 14, state television reported. After that, the commision will confirm an election date.

Electoral experts have suggested that process could see the nationwide vote pushed back several months, possibly until February. Under the constitution, elections should be held within 90 days of the dissolution of parliament’s lower house, which in this case would mean early November.

In the interim cabinet, former central bank chief Shamshad Akhtar was appointed as finance minister and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Jalil Abbas Jilani, was named foreign minister, the new information minister Murtaza Solangi said.

The main challenge for the caretaker government and its successor remains the economy. Recent economic reforms have led to historic levels of inflation and high interest rates, putting pressure on ordinary people and businesses.

Kakar, a little-known politician who is believed to be close to the military, was sworn in himself on Monday after President Arif Alvi dissolved parliament last week on the advice of outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Political analysts say that if the caretaker set-up stretches beyond its constitutional tenure, a prolonged period without an elected government would allow the military, which has ruled the country directly for more than three decades of its 76-year existence, to consolidate control.

The opposition party led by former premier Imran Khan had accused Sharif’s coalition of seeking to avoid facing an election as Khan’s popularity grew. Khan is currently under arrest over a conviction for charges stemming from the sale of state gifts.

Khan has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers are lodging appeals over the conviction.

Sharif’s government had denied dragging its feet, saying it is a constitutional requirement to hold elections under the latest census.

Other names in the cabinet include former provincial minister Sarfaraz Bugti as interior minister and Mishaal Malik, the wife of jailed Kashmiri Leader Yaseen Malik, as Minister for Human Rights.

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