Islamabad, Pakistan – The Pakistani government and opposition named former chief justice Nasir-ul-Mulk the country’s caretaker prime minister, ending weeks of political wrangling and giving the former judge the responsibility of holding a general election by the end of July.
Mulk, 68, served as chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court for just over a year in 2014, and holds a reputation for being politically neutral.
The appointment was announced by parliamentary leader of the opposition Khursheed Shah at a press conference in the capital, Islamabad, on Monday.
Shah was joined by outgoing Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq.
“Today we have chosen someone whose past record is clear, and hopefully as a caretaker prime minister he will also work for the country and its democratic system,” said Abbasi.
Shah, too, lauded Mulk’s record as a judge and lawyer, saying he expected him to hold elections in a manner that was free, fair and on time.
“I believe that this will be a very important election for Pakistan, because Pakistan is going through huge issues, and we have seen rigging in elections as well in the past,” said Shah.
Pakistan is due to hold a general election on July 25. Mulk will take over as caretaker prime minister on June 1, as the ruling PML-N government completes its five-year term.
Assuming elections are held without incident, this would be only the second time in Pakistan’s history that a civilian government will complete its term and hand over power to a succeeding civilian government.
Pakistan has been ruled by its powerful military for roughly half of its 70-year history since independence from the British.
The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, welcomed the appointment of Mulk as “a respectable name [and] a suitable choice for the slot of caretaker PM”, said a statement.
Mulk, who completed his law degree in the United Kingdom, was selected after six weeks of consultations between Abbasi and Shah.
The role is largely ceremonial with caretaker governments constitutionally given limited decision-making power on major policy issues.
Their primary responsibility is to hold elections on time, and to ensure the day-to-day affairs of government continue apace during the interim between successive governments.