Pakistan: Government, opposition talks on neutral caretaker set-up welcomed

Sunday, Feb 12,2012, 7:45:50 PM

Islamabad: The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) has welcomed the reported negotiations between the government and the opposition on a system for the appointment of caretaker governments in the Centre and provinces.

PILDAT had filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court, asking it to interpret the scope of 'consultation' between the president and the outgoing leader of the House and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly for the formation of caretaker governments before the next general elections.

"It is a positive development that the leader of the opposition has taken up this issue with the government, following the PILDAT petition, so that ambiguity on 'consultation' in the constitution can be defined for putting in place neutral caretaker governments through consensus," said a PILDAT statement.

PILDAT also welcomed the statement of opposition leader in NA Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that parties outside parliament would also be consulted on the appointment of caretaker governments in the Centre and provinces before the next general elections.

PILDAT had demanded the same in its recent report on the state of electoral reforms in Pakistan released on 31 January, and in a citizens' forum held to discuss the report on 7 February.

PILDAT also stressed the need for including parties outside parliament in consultations on the appointment of the chief election commissioner.

Article 224 (1A) of the constitution of Pakistan, after the 18th Amendment, provides for the appointment of caretaker prime minister and caretaker chief ministers by the president of Pakistan and the governors concerned respectively in consultation with the prime minister/chief ministers and the opposition leaders in the outgoing assemblies. However, there is no definition of the word 'consultation' in the constitution," it said, adding that serious disputes had surfaced between the president and the opposition leader regarding the interpretation of the word in the matter of the NAB chairman's appointment.

Since the "neutrality" of the caretaker governments was essential for holding a free and fair election in Pakistan, PILDAT apprehended that a constitutional deadlock might arise if the president and the leader of the opposition failed to agree on a consensus caretaker government, the statement read.

"It is in this backdrop that PILDAT approached the apex court to seek interpretation of the word 'consultation' so that all the parties are clear about their role in the consultative process."

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