Perception and Reality
It is an open secret known across the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches of Pakistan that for every organ of the state, the written law is far different from the ground reality.
Political corruption is a term very often used regarding political candidates using a country’s facilities and reserves to attain private gain. It is also associated with institutional corruption, where an establishment sets new rules of ethics to control power, and dominant political figures have the ability to “expand their range of action, not just with weapons but mainly through political inﬂuence and economic investments.”
In Pakistan, however, corruptive practices tend to vary since they encapsulate a range of traditions that have been present in the region for a while, in that the country’s legislative structure is quite contradictory to the perception of power its political candidates carry. Since key political parties that have often come to serve high office, with the likes of Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have continuously handed over power through kinship, corruption has become centralized and synonymous with authority. However, due to these corruptive practices of the established powers, the country has faced a dissolution of assemblies and inconsistent re-elections. Hence, Pakistan is no stranger to a crisis of democracy.
Time and again, the country has faced severe and abrupt removals of various prime ministers, from the forced resignation of Chaudhari Muhammad Ali (1956) to the no-confidence vote that usurped Imran Khan’s power (2022). This tumultuous political tirade has disrupted the peaceful exchange of power, and from the twenty-nine Prime Ministers that the country has witnessed take office since 1947, none have completed a single term. However, it is within this vacuum, when a prime minister is removed, the National Assembly is dissolved, and power is being negotiated from one party to the next, that Pakistan is governed by a “Caretaker Government.”
A Caretaker Government is a set of governing bodies that come to play when the country is in jeopardy—they are, quite literally, taking care of a designated political position until a fresh body of elected officials comes to sit. In accordance with the 1973 Constitution and the Elections Act of 2017, the Caretaker bodies are also in charge of making sure that elections occur with openness, equity, and clarity. On paper, they are to carry out free and fair elections. However, it is an open secret known across the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches of Pakistan that for every organ of the state, the written law is far different from the ground reality.
Nevertheless, the process of selecting the caretaker government is quite banal, and its credibility, quite standard, wherein interim assisting bodies should be independent of any political inclination and fairly acceptable to all political parties. Their mandate is limited to running the affairs of the previously existing government and foreseeing the policies that have already been proposed or are in the process of maturing. In short, their primary obligation is to mediate official duties during the vacuum of shifting powers. It is a national fact and, at times, a practicing rule, that whoever becomes part of the caretaker cabinet is most often free of political ties and should not be able to influence anything. They are assigned to handle routine matters and are exhumed to pass any new policies or legislation. For they are transitionary, their national imprint is restricted to ten minutes of fame, which gives a testament to the credibility of their character. In short, they are dummy heads who the bureaucracy can report to. Hence, as a practice, such a person should be apolitical, unbiased, and equipped with somewhat of an understanding of the governance structure. Quite aptly, they must be aware of the day-to-day functionaries and familiarity with the Pakistani legal system and foreign policy to understand and make everyday decisions accordingly.
Writer holds an undergraduate degree in Literary Studies from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School and an MPhil in South Asian Studies from the University of Cambridge. She can be reached at email@example.com
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