Interim setups may seem fairly newfangled in Pakistan considering that the need for them went unrecognised for the first 38 years of the country’s existence. It was only in 1985 that a constitutional clause was introduced under which the country’s president could appoint a caretaker setup. However, it would take another three years before Pakistan would have its first caretaker administration after military ruler General Ziaul Haq dismissed Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo’s government. Since then, we have had eight caretaker setups – the first was headless and as many as six of the first set-ups were more or less partisan. While the last two interim administrations (in 2013 and now in 2018 under Nasirul Mulk) can be classified as neutral, we don’t seem to have evolved as far as adherence to the law is concerned. So far neither the interim premier nor members of his cabinet have submitted the statements of their assets to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) — the legal requirement under the Elections Act 2017. Asset details must be shared with the election body within 72 hours of taking their oath of office. This is hardly a good precedent. Disappointingly, the provincial interim set-ups also have ignored this provision of the law.
It is no wonder then that Pakistan ranks low in a list of countries where the adherence to the law is documented and measured. Since this ranking is a reflection of people’s perception of the state of law, it is worthwhile examining the factors responsible in determining how effectively a country is able to uphold the rule of law. It is clear that some governments are able to provide better access to courts, decent policing and rid itself of corruption and institutional incompetence while the efforts of others are pathetic in this regard.
It is important to outlaw the culture of impunity that prevails in our country. Violations of procedures laid down by the ECP need to be explained by the caretakers. The Elections Act 2017 should be fully complied with. Until there is compliance at the highest levels, it is futile to expect the masses to change their habits. We watch further developments with interest.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2018