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.
The decision yesterday to name Khoso, 83, follows the March 16 dissolution of the National Assembly at the end of its five-year term. The outgoing Pakistan Peoples Party government was the first civilian administration in the country’s 65 years of independence to complete its term and prepare to transfer power 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 yesterday.
As mandated by the constitution, the commission stepped in after talks between the Peoples Party and its main challenger, the Pakistan Muslim League of former premier Nawaz Sharif, failed to agree on who should govern for the next two months. The decision coincided with the return to the nation of former President Pervez Musharraf, who left the country after stepping down in 2008, and now plans to take part in the elections.
The Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari trails in opinion polls ahead of the May 11 ballot. It had less than half the support of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League in a March 4 survey published by Gallup Pakistan.
Whichever party wins at the election will focus on boosting Pakistan’s $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 Baluchistan, Pakistan’s poorest province, according to his biography on the website of the 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.