ISLAMABAD: Former Senator and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Lt General (retd) Abdul Qayyum believes that the concept of a caretaker government, responsible for overseeing elections, is fundamentally flawed and should be reconsidered after the upcoming general elections.
In a candid conversation with reporters, General Qayyum pointed out that very few countries in the world have such an arrangement. Citing examples, he mentioned that Bangladesh had introduced this concept but abandoned it in 2015, and India also moved away from the idea of a caretaker government.
According to him, the caretaker government’s primary role is to ensure impartial, transparent, and free and fair elections, as well as to guarantee the smooth functioning of state affairs. He emphasized that this interim government shouldn’t have the mandate to make significant policy decisions, leaving such matters to the elected parliament, representing the public mandate.
While acknowledging the present caretaker government’s satisfactory handling of financial, defense, and foreign policy issues, General Qayyum expressed concern over its apparent inability to effectively address issues arising from foreign-funded individuals on social media, spreading hatred against institutions.
He noted that allegations of not providing a level playing field, excessive use of state authority against protesters, and trespassing into houses create a negative perception, affecting national unity. General Qayyum urged the caretaker government to promptly address and negate such allegations convincingly.
Responding to a question, the retired general stressed the importance of upholding the sanctity of the ballot in democratic systems. He supported the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) initiative to introduce the Election Management System (EMS) with an investment of Rs 280 million, emphasizing the need for thorough testing to ensure transparency and acceptance by all stakeholders.
Reflecting on the bitter experience of the Real-Time System (RTS) fiasco in the last general elections, General Qayyum highlighted the significance of an extensively tested and manipulation-resistant electoral system.
Addressing priorities for the next government, he emphasized the critical link between economic stability and national security. Dealing with external debts, boosting industrial and agricultural production, increasing exports, reducing import dependence, and reforming the tax collection system were key areas he highlighted.
Expressing concern about the rising circular debt, General Qayyum stressed the need for effective control. Educational reforms, especially addressing the alarming number of out-of-school children, were also mentioned. He called for a strategic review of foreign policy and sought cooperation with technologically advanced countries to usher in a green revolution.