Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Business Recorder Editorial May 31, 2018

Caretaker PM at last

The country had been going through a fair deal of suspense for over a month regarding the choice of caretaker prime minister. So much so that the lists of names put forward as possible candidates by the main political parties did not prima facie engender confidence that a consensus candidate would emerge. Had that been the case, and if Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had failed to agree on the caretaker prime minister’s name, the issue would have had to be referred to a parliamentary committee composed of both treasury and opposition members. Of course there was no guarantee that the parliamentary committee would have arrived at a consensus either. In that case, the issue would have passed out of the purview of parliament and been referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan for a decision from amongst the lists of names forwarded to it by the government and the opposition. There was therefore a sense of congratulatory relief all round when the Prime Minister, Syed Khursheed Shah and Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq emerged from a meeting on May 28 to announce that they had indeed agreed on a consensus candidate. The announcement was graciously left to Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah to make. The choice turned out to be universally acknowledged as an excellent one. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk has been chosen for the post of caretaker prime minister. He will take oath on June 1, one day after the tenure of the incumbent government expires on May 31. The final choice was facilitated by Ayaz Sadiq, and this was duly and gratefully acknowledged by Syed Khursheed Shah. Reports say the leadership of the PML-N and PPP was on board and supportive of the choice. Syed Khursheed Shah spoke to the anxieties surrounding the whole episode, including the five indecisive meetings between him and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, when he said the outcome had dispelled the impression that politicians and parliament were incapable of deciding matters on their own. He referred to the final decision as one that will be remembered as a historic day. He also expressed happiness that the outgoing government had completed its five-year tenure, a development with which we are unfamiliar but for the past two governments since 2008.

Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk brings to his new job impeccable credentials from his service on the bench, ending his career at the pinnacle of the judiciary. During his journey, Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk earned a reputation as a soft-spoken but firm member of the bench. During his tenure as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, he delivered many important verdicts that have earned praise from the legal fraternity. He also briefly served as Acting Election Commissioner and presided, as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, over the Commission that heard Imran Khan’s allegations that the 2013 general elections were rigged. The Commission found the election process flawed in certain respects but overall free of any systematic rigging. During his tenure as Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk adhered to the time honoured principle of judicial restraint and did not adopt a proactive judicial stance, going so far as not to take suo motu notice of any matter. Given his reputation, track record and credentials, it is not surprising that his appointment as caretaker prime minister has received a positive endorsement across the board by virtually all the political parties. The hope expressed by them, which can only be echoed by the people, is that the fears expressed of late regarding the credibility of the general elections called for July 25 will prove unnecessary as Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk not only is highly regarded as a jurist but also has the requisite experience to overcome any anomalies to ensure the elections are not only fair, free and transparent, but seen to be so.

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