Caretakers Amidst A Political War

Caretakers Amidst A Political War
The role of a caretaker government is pivotal in ensuring a smooth transition from one elected government to another. The system of caretaker governments is not unique to Pakistan and can be seen in other Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, and New Zealand. But in Pakistan, all political matters are subject to intense disputation and severe polarization.

The Punjab caretaker government has faced severe criticism for their allegedly one-sided and 'tough' measures against workers and leaders affiliated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). But do any of those accusations carry any credibility? Is there any evidence to back the claims made against the Punjab government?

It is high time the mainstream and electronic media study the allegations and examine the merits of each claim, to expose the reality that is being blurred by baseless propaganda and fake news being recycled by a specific ecosystem on social media.

An apolitical cabinet

One of the primary foundations of the Punjab caretaker government is the composition of the cabinet. Under the leadership of chief minister Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi, the government has appointed individuals who are well known for their competence, integrity, and non-partisanship. This selection process ensured that the caretaker cabinet's decisions are made objectively, transparently, and in the best interest of the public.

Naqvi himself is a corporate businessman and journalist, with experience of having run several media outlets. His record before serving as caretaker shows that he is known for his integrity and his commitment to the rule of law.

The Punjab caretaker cabinet remains committed to its primary responsibility of holding free and fair elections. It has already started the process of preparing for the elections. And in the meantime, the caretaker cabinet is addressing the challenges facing the province, such as poverty, unemployment and lawlessness, doing so in accordance with legal precedent.

Unprecedented criticism

Contrary to the accusations, the Mohsin Naqvi-led caretaker government has encountered intense backlash and criticism, and even violent protests, from PTI workers. The very fact that these claims are being made continuously, shows that the government has not resorted to unilateral measures. In fact, the Punjab caretaker government appears to be showing immense restraint, and pursues only those who violate the laws.

Instead of resorting to mudslinging and cheap publicity tactics, the caretakers remain busy highlighting the government's efforts to maintain law and order in the face of unprecedented and at times violent opposition.

The government has always given the PTI the right to protest peacefully, but the PTI has repeatedly violated the law and attacked public property.

Meeting violence with restraint

Despite the challenging circumstances, the Punjab caretaker government has consistently exhibited restraint in dealing with protests. Under their authority, Punjab police refrained from taking pre-emptive measures against the PTI, opting to allow them their constitutional right to peaceful protest. This approach demonstrated their commitment to upholding democratic values and preserving citizens' rights without compromising public safety.

Right to peaceful protest and security concerns

On May 9, the Punjab government granted the PTI permission to protest. However, it is essential to recognise that the PTI's activities of that day created legitimate security concerns under the guise of political protests.

The PTI's charged protesters attacked military installations, raising serious questions about the intentions and conduct of certain protestors. The May 9 incident underscores the complexities faced by the current caretaker government in balancing the right to protest with ensuring national security.

Addressing police high-handedness

While incidents of police high-handedness cannot be ruled out, chief minister Mohsin Naqvi has consistently emphasised on tough action against anyone who violates the law. This stance reflects his and his government's commitment to maintaining the rule of law, and to hold accountable all those responsible for any excessive use of force on behalf of the state.

No irregularities or corruption allegations

To date, no cases of irregularities or corruption have been reported against the Mohsin Naqvi-led caretaker government. This also suggests a level of transparency and adherence to ethical governance, which is crucial in instilling public trust and in ensuring transparency in the caretaker government's actions.

Willingness to facilitate elections

Despite prevalent confusion and persistent rumour-mongering about the date of general elections in Pakistan and in the provinces, the Punjab caretaker government has an unwavering commitment to holding free and fair elections. This demonstrates their dedication to their mandate within the democratic process, to enable citizens to exercise their right to adult franchise and elect their representatives freely.

Criticising the caretakers

The Punjab caretaker government's actions provide a clear picture of their approach, regardless of the rumour-mongering and conspiracy theories inundating the online metaverse. While criticism is an integral part of any democratic system, it is essential to separate fact and reality from fiction and personal opinion.

So far, the formation of an able and apolitical cabinet, its steadiness in facing unprecedented backlash and criticism, its exercise of commendable restraint during tense and often violent protests, ensuing zero tolerance for police high-handedness, having no corruption allegations against its cabinet, and above all, its commitment to facilitate elections, all point to a more comprehensive, objective and holistic understanding of the government's actions. But those predisposed to their biases will still fail to see what the caretakers have done and continue to do.

As the caretaker Punjab government continues playing a critical role in ensuring a smooth electoral process, citizens must fairly assess the government's measures and performance. This is crucial for maintaining public trust and confidence in Pakistan's democratic system.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.