Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said he will hand over power to a caretaker government next month, bringing the country a step closer to general elections.
“In August 2023, we will hand over this responsibility to the caretaker government,” he said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday.
Sharif took office in April 2022 after leading a coalition of parties that ousted Imran Khan through a no-confidence vote in parliament. His term ends in mid-August.
A caretaker government oversees national elections, which must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly. If the assembly is dissolved days before the completion of the term, elections should be held within 90 days.
Election Commission will announce the polling date.
Thursday’s announcement brings Pakistan closer to national elections expected later this year. The government has not yet announced when the National Assembly will be dissolved.
The polls are aimed at ending the political turmoil that has plagued the country since the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan in April last year. The violence erupted after he was arrested in May on corruption charges. The crackdown on his party and followers later eroded his power base.
The agitation also undermined efforts to shore up the country’s fragile economy. Hours before the $6.7 billion loan program was due to expire, a last-minute short-term initial deal was secured with the International Monetary Fund to avoid a potential debt default.
“The only option we have now is to break the begging bowl and stand on our own feet,” Sharif said, referring to Pakistan’s foreign debt.
This will be the third time in the South Asian country’s 76-year history that the National Assembly will complete its five-year term, but no prime minister has completed their full term in that time.
However, it can be seen as a sign of strengthening democracy in a country that has been directly controlled by a powerful military for much of its post-independence history.
Pakistan needs a stable government to meet its significant economic challenges. Growth has slowed sharply, facing record borrowing costs and struggling with persistently high inflation. All the while, the IMF monitors and weighs whether the government is doing enough to uphold the bailout agreement.