Pakistani senator Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar has been named as caretaker prime minister to oversee national elections, the prime minister’s office has said, following a meeting between outgoing premier Shehbaz Sharif and opposition leader Raja Riaz Ahmad.
“The prime minister [Sharif] and leader of opposition have jointly signed the advice which will be sent to the president for approval,” they said in a statement.
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The little-known senator from Balochistan, Pakistan’s least-populous province, will head an interim government until the next vote.
“We first agreed that whoever should be prime minister, he should be from a smaller province so smaller provinces’ grievances should be addressed,” Riaz said after a meeting with Sharif.
Kakar is listed as an independent politician by the Senate, but is reported by local media to be a part of the Balochistan Awami Party, which is widely considered to be close to the country’s powerful military.
Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved on Wednesday and by law, an election should be held within 90 days, but the results of the latest census released last week means more time will likely be needed to redraw constituencies.
The Election Commission has to draw new boundaries for hundreds of federal and provincial constituencies and, based on that, it will give an election date.
The vote will likely go ahead without former prime minister Imran Khan, who was convicted of corruption last weekend and sentenced to three years in jail. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The interim government takes over a country that has been in political turmoil since Khan was dismissed by a no-confidence vote in April 2022, and which is also facing overlapping economic and security issues.
Khan was briefly arrested in May, following which thousands of his protesters stormed the streets, targeting government and army properties.
Some of those protesters are being tried in controversial military courts.
Meanwhile, Khan’s speeches and news conferences are banned from mainstream media while dozens of his party leaders have quit after alleged coercion by the military establishment.
The former prime minister has repeatedly accused Pakistan’s powerful military and its intelligence agency of openly trying to destroy his political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, and said previously he had “no doubt” that he would be arrested ahead of the general election.
The military continues to have a huge role behind the scenes in Pakistan. It has ruled the country directly for more than three decades of its 76-year existence and wields significant power in politics.
Political analysts say that if the caretaker setup stretches beyond its constitutional tenure, a prolonged period without an elected government would allow the military to consolidate its control.