July 13, 2024

Little-known senator to be Pakistan caretaker PM until election

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A little-known senator from Pakistan’s least-populous province will be caretaker prime minister to see the country through to the next election, the leader of the opposition said Saturday.

Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, from Balochistan Province, was named by opposition leader Raja Riaz Ahmad following a meeting with outgoing premier Shehbaz Sharif.

“We first agreed that whoever should be prime minister, he should be from a smaller province so smaller provinces’ grievances should be addressed,” said Riaz.

Kakar will lead Pakistan through to the next general and provincial elections due by November, but which some officials have already said will be delayed until next year.

The country has been in political turmoil since former international cricket star Imran Khan was dismissed as premier by a no-confidence vote in April 2022, culminating in him being jailed last weekend for three years for graft.

Authorities have cracked down hard against Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in recent months, crushing his grassroots power by rounding up thousands of his supporters and officials.

Parliament was officially dissolved on Wednesday with elections due within 90 days according to the constitution.

But there has been speculation for months that they would be delayed as the establishment grapples to stabilize a country facing overlapping security, economic and political crises.

Data from the latest census carried was finally published last weekend and the outgoing government said the election commission needs time to redraw constituency boundaries.

Asked this week on television if a vote would take place this year, interior minister Rana Sanaullah replied: “An absolutely straightforward answer — No.”

The election commission has yet to comment.

Last month parliament rushed through legislation that gives the caretaker government more power to negotiate with global bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, another clue it may be around for a while.

Some analysts think the delay could give time for the main coalition partners — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — to figure out how to address the challenge of Khan’s PTI.

“But in reality, delaying the election could simply anger the public more and galvanize an opposition that has already suffered through months of crackdowns,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.

Following his ousting, Khan spent months galvanizing his supporters with a series of mass rallies and long marches — including one in which he was shot in the leg during an assassination attempt.

And after he was detained for three days in May, Khan’s supporters took to the streets and over a dozen died in clashes with police.

The United States said this week it was watching with concern the prospect of election violence.

Behind any election in Pakistan lurks the military, which has staged at least three successful coups since the country was forged from the partition of India in 1947.

Khan enjoyed genuine widespread support when he came to power in 2018, but analysts say it was only with the blessing of the country’s powerful generals — with who he reportedly fell out within the months before his ousting.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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