World

Pakistan’s caretaker premier sworn in as people celebrate Independence Day

(Fareed Khan/AP)
(Fareed Khan/AP) (Fareed Khan/AP)

Former Pakistani senator Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar was sworn in on Monday as the country’s prime minister to head a caretaker national government that will oversee parliamentary elections amid one of the worst economic crises the Islamic nation has faced, officials said.

Mr Kakar, who is comparatively new to politics and known to be close to the powerful military, has been representing his Baluchistan province in the Senate since 2018.

President Arif Alvi administered the oath of office to him in a brief ceremony in Islamabad.

Pakistan Politics
Pakistan Politics Pakistani President Arif Alvi, right, administers the oath to caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar during a ceremony in Islamabad (Pakistan President Office/AP)

On Sunday, Mr Kakar quit as the head of his small Baluchistan Awami Party and as a senator after being named by outgoing premier Shehbaz Sharif and opposition leader Raza Riaz to oversee the vote and run the day-to-day affairs of the country until the people elect a new government.

It is normal practice in Pakistan to appoint a caretaker administration for the election period.

Under the constitution, the election should take place in the next 90 days.

Pakistan Independence Day
Pakistan Independence Day Navy personnel escort provincial government officials to lay wreaths on the mausoleum of Pakistan found Muhammad Ali Jinnah during Independence Day celebrations in Karachi (Fareed Khan/AP)

The swearing-in took place as Pakistanis celebrated the country’s 76th Independence Day, but the events took place amid a deepening political turmoil, which started after the removal of former premier Imran Khan from power last year.

Pakistan gained independence when the departing British left India and split the subcontinent in 1947.

Monday’s festivities began with gun salutes in the capital, Islamabad, and in each of the four provincial capitals.

In Islamabad, President Arif Alvi hoisted the national flag at a ceremony attended by officials and other dignitaries.

Pakistan Independence Day
Pakistan Independence Day Pakistani President Arif Alvi hoists the national flag during Independence Day commemorations in Islamabad (Press Information Department/AP)

Security was high across the nation following multiple attacks at the weekend, including an assault in which Chinese working on a construction project escaped unharmed but two militants were killed when troops quickly returned fire in the coastal town of Gwadar in Baluchistan province.

On Sunday, a journalist, Jan Mohammad Mahar, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was heading home in Sukkur, a district in southern Sindh province, police said. However, the motive behind the killing was unclear and officers said they are still investigating.

In his overnight farewell address to the nation, Mr Sharif asked his countrymen to “make the right decision” when they go to vote. He blamed Mr Khan for the economic crisis the country was facing when he came to power.

Mr Sharif replaced Mr Khan in April 2022 when he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Pakistan Independence Day
Pakistan Independence Day A vendor holds balloons in the colours of the national flag and reading ‘Happy Independence Day’ at a market in Peshawar (Muhammad Sajjad/AP)

Mr Khan was sentenced to three years in prison in a corruption case earlier this month and is currently being held at the high-security Attock prison in eastern Punjab province.

But he remains a popular opposition politician and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is expected to give a tough time to his main rival Mr Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party in the elections.

Mr Khan himself would be unable to take part in the election unless his conviction is overturned as no-one with a criminal conviction can lead a party, run in elections or hold public office. He is appealed against the conviction.