Pakistan Picks Former Judge as Interim Premier Before May Polls

Pakistan’s Election Commission appointed a former judge, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, to head a caretaker government before May general elections, after leading political parties failed to agree on a candidate

Khoso, 83, will take the oath as interim Prime Minister as early as today to oversee the transition, which follows the March 16 dissolution of the 342-member National Assembly at the end of its five years. The outgoing Pakistan Peoples Party government was the first civilian administration in the country’s 65 years of independence to complete its term and transfer power to another through a ballot.

“This gentleman will assist us to hold free and fair elections in the country,” Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, the election commissioner, told reporters in Islamabad today.

As mandated by the constitution, the commission stepped in after weeks of negotiations between representatives of the Peoples Party and its leading challenger, the Pakistan Muslim League of former premier Nawaz Sharif, failed to break the deadlock on who should govern for the next two months.

The Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari trails in opinion polls ahead of the May 11 ballot, winning less than half the support of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League in a March 4 survey published by Gallup Pakistan.

Growth Needed

Whichever party wins at the polls will have to boost the $210 billion economy, which has grown at an average 3 percent since 2007, less than half the annual pace of the previous five years and too slow to reduce poverty in the world’s sixth-most populous country.

The U.S. is seeking the support of the nuclear-armed nation as it bids to stabilize Afghanistan amid plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014.

Khoso is a retired judge and hails from Pakistan’s poorest province of Baluchistan, according to his bio on Pakistan Federal Shariat Court, which he headed as chief justice in 1994. His name was proposed by the previous government.

“Improving the country’s security and financial situation and holding free and fair elections are my biggest challenges,” Khoso said in a live interview on the Geo channel today.

Zardari’s term as president ends in September. Previous civilian governments have been toppled by the military, which has run the country for half its history.

To contact the reporters on this story: Haris Anwar in Islamabad at hanwar2@bloomberg.net; Augustine Anthony in Islamabad at aanthony9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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