A cabinet led by Anwarul Haq Kakar has assumed the caretaker role at the Centre
caretaker federal government, led by Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar, has taken charge. A majority of the caretaker cabinet members are technocrats. This quality of the cabinet has strengthened an earlier impression that a technocrat setup – mooted since last year among political circles and powers that be – might rule the country beyond the time stipulated for a caretaker set-up under the constitution. This has raised valid concerns on when the next general election will be held.
Most members of the caretaker cabinet, including PM Kakar, enjoy the reputation of having good ties with the establishment. Kakar started his career as a teacher in Balochistan and then shifted to the development sector. Later, he stepped into politics and has been part of various political parties that were supported by the establishment at various stages.
Interior Minister Sarfaraz Ahmad Bugti, another youth from Balochistan, belongs to the Masori tribe, a sub-clan of the Bugti tribe. His father Ghulam Qadir Masori was a member of Gen Zia-ul Haq’s nominated Majlis-i-Shura. At one point, he was a contender for the tribal chieftainship. After Zia’s demise in a plane crash, Mir Ghulam Qadir joined the Pakistan Peoples Party. His brother, Jan Muhmmad, had also supported the PPP in the past.
Bugti studied at the Lawrence College and Quaid-i-Azam University. In 2013, he contested elections as an independent candidate from Dera Bugti, a stronghold of Jamhoori Watan Party and won the seat. Later, he joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and was appointed Balochistan’s home minister. PM Kakar had switched to the PML-N from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) the same year.
PM Kakar and Bugti continued their political voyage together and joined the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), also seen as a pro-establishment party, in 2018. In 2021, Bugti was elected a senator from Balochistan. His tenure would end in 2027. He is a strong critic of Baloch separatists and insurgents.
Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani is a former ambassador and a former foreign secretary. He is related to the former prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani. Jilani, known for being in the good books of national as well as international leaders, was also shortlisted for caretaker prime minister.
Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar, a former governor of State Bank, is also a technocrat. She, too, was earlier seen as a strong contender for caretaker premiership.
Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, a senior journalist, has been a staunch supporter of the constitution and human rights. He has also served as director general of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation during the PPP government (2008-2013). Before joining the cabinet, he had been working for The Friday Times and Naya Daur besides writing for other publications.
Defence Minister Lt Gen Anwar Ali Hyder (retired) has served as chairman of the Army Welfare Trust and Naya Pakistan Housing Development Authority.
Likewise, some other members of the cabinet – Gohar Ejaz, Sami Saeed, Shahid Ashraf Tarar, Ahmad Irfan Aslam, Muhammad Ali, Dr Umar Saif, Nadeem Jan, Khalil George, Aneeq Ahmed, Jamal Shah and Madad Ali Sindhi – are also established experts in their respective fields.
Air Marshal Farhat Hussain (retired) will be the adviser to the PM on aviation. Ahad Cheema, a bureaucrat known for his proximity to former prime minister Shahbaz Sharif, is the adviser on the Establishment Division. Former federal secretary Waqar Masood Khan, whose name was earlier shortlisted for finance minister, is the PM’s adviser on finance. Mashaal Malik, spouse of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, has been appointed special adviser on human rights and women empowerment.
Jawad Sohrab Malik has been named the special adviser for the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis. Vice admiral Iftikhar Rao (retired) is the special adviser on maritime affairs. Poet Wasi Shah is the special adviser on tourism. Dr Jehanzeb Khan has been appointed special adviser on the Special Investment Facilitation Council, and Syeda Arifa Zehra, adviser on education and national harmony.
Soon after taking charge, the caretaker government was faced with the Jaranwala mayhem. PM Kakar visited the scene and distributed assistance among the affected Christian families. He was seen hugging and consoling the affected people. He also issued strong statements pertaining to the rights of non-Muslim communities in Pakistan. On Wednesday, he spoke to the media in Karachi and said, “We will not surrender before extremists and terrorists and will fight till terrorism is eradicated from its root.” He issued another strong statement soon after: “We are not afraid of suicide bombers, who will burn in hell.”
Some say these statements by the prime minister are part of an image building exercise meant both for local and international observers. Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti has issued similar statements.
None of the caretaker cabinet members, except for Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, however, has spoken very clearly about holding the elections. Solangi said, “We neither support nor oppose any party. We are in the government to conduct elections within the time given by the constitution and law.”
The PPP has started pressing the caretaker government for holding elections within 90 days. President Arif Alvi’s invitation to the Chief Election Commissioner for a meeting to decide the date for elections has not resulted in the announcement of a schedule.
After September 16, Pakistan will have a new chief justice in Justice Qazi Faez Isa. A strong constitutionalist, Justice Isa is expected to resist any bid to delay elections beyond the timeframe allowed under the law.
Speculation is rife that if the current caretaker set-up is seen delivering good governance, it might continue for an extended period. In the current political scenario, this looks like a hard prediction to come by.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. He tweets at @BukhariMubasher