The Pakistani government has appointed a caretaker prime minister, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, in preparation for the upcoming general elections. This move comes after a year of political turmoil in the country. Kakar’s close ties to the powerful military highlight their dominance over Pakistani politics, signaling that the military has a strong grip on power once again. Political analyst Khalid Mahmood Rasool described Kakar as a choice of the military establishment.
The previous government, led by Shehbaz Sharif, who also has close ties to the military, ended its term last week. According to Pakistani law, a caretaker must be appointed to oversee the next general elections after a government’s term ends.
Kakar’s appointment comes amid speculation that the elections, originally scheduled for this fall, will be delayed until next spring at the earliest. This speculation follows a dramatic week in Pakistani politics, with the arrest and sentencing of former prime minister Imran Khan in a corruption case. Khan, who was ousted in a vote of no confidence in April 2022, had accused the military of orchestrating his downfall. However, military leaders deny these allegations.
Despite his ousting, Khan has remained a prominent figure in Pakistani politics, rallying his supporters and criticizing the military’s grip on power. However, the military responded with a crackdown on his supporters, effectively weakening his party. With his recent conviction, Khan has been barred from running for office for five years. He is currently appealing his sentence in a legal battle that will determine his political future.
Kakar will be sworn in as the interim prime minister within a week. However, there are doubts about whether the country will meet the deadline of holding elections within 60 to 90 days of the dissolution of Parliament. The outgoing government has announced that new electoral boundaries based on the latest census must be drawn before the elections can take place, a process expected to take at least six months.
Delaying the elections would benefit the military establishment, as it would allow the political climate to cool off before citizens head to the polls. However, analysts warn that an extended delay could lead to political blowback and complicate both the political and economic dimensions of the country.
The legacy of the outgoing prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, is seen as mixed. He claimed to have saved the country from economic default by negotiating a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, but he leaves behind a struggling economy, high inflation, and damage from last year’s floods. Critics argue that his government failed to protect civil liberties, facilitated the military’s influence over politics, and allowed a heavy-handed crackdown against Khan’s party.
As for Kakar, he hails from the province of Balochistan and enjoys support from across the political spectrum. His political and religious views lean toward the center-right, which contributes to his credibility within religious circles and religio-political parties. He is described as a seasoned political activist with excellent public relations skills and has worked with various political parties in the country.