Despite all of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) assurances that it would ensure fresh delimitations are carried out at the earliest, the incumbent caretaker setup is getting awfully cosy in Islamabad.
Early on Wednesday morning news started to trickle through from the foreign ministry indicating that Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar intends to attend the 78th General Assembly session of the United Nations as Pakistan’s representative. The UNGA session, which opens in less than a week, would mark the first time an interim Prime Minister represents the country at the UN.
At the same time Kakar’s cabinet is displaying signs of similar comfort in their offices. The new minister of commerce announced a rather ambitious plan aimed at revitalising Pakistan’s industries and propelling textile exports to $25 billion for the current fiscal year. At the same time, the Minister of Information Technology, Dr Umar Saif, promised that auctions for 5G bandwidth would be conducted within the next 10 months.
There have been other similar bold claims from the caretakers. It is clear that the prime minister and cabinet are both preparing themselves for a very long stint in office. At the same time, they would do well to keep in mind the scale of the challenges they face. In a very sobering press conference, finance minister Shamshad Akhter pointed out that the state of the economy was worse than the government had anticipated.
Her remarks, made during a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance today, asserted that the interim set-up had “inherited” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, hence, it was “non-negotiable”. The finance minister’s statement comes as Pakistan remains plagued by the inflated cost of living, particularly exorbitant electricity prices that have forced residents to take to the streets across the country.
Prime Minister Kakar is already trying to position himself as a populist. He is making the rounds as a politician would and has called emergency meetings to discuss the high electricity prices that consumers are now protesting against. However, he must realise that the finance minister is correct. There is no fiscal space for the government to provide subsidies and for however long they are here the IMF’s conditions must be followed diligently.
The government is trying to position itself as a long-term technocratic answer to Pakistan’s woes. The problem is it does not have the mandate required to solve the problems plaguing Pakistan. Short of subverting the constitution, there is little they can do to gain that mandate.