This article was published in Dawn News on May 28, 2018. It is available here:
PAKISTAN is in search of caretaker cabinets both at the centre and in the four provinces. It is a unique model which probably exists only in Pakistan; under this, non-elected governments are inducted after the national and provincial assemblies are dissolved for fresh elections. The principal justification for such a caretaker setup is apparently to ensure the neutrality and impartiality of the administration during elections.
Many years ago, in 1996 to be precise, Bangladesh experimented with the idea and appointed unelected caretaker cabinets with retired chief justices of the supreme court acting as head of the government during elections but later found the practice counterproductive and abandoned it in 2011.
The original 1973 Constitution of Pakistan did not envisage a non-elected caretaker setup and the government led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto continued in office while holding general elections in 1977. Perhaps the widespread allegations of large-scale rigging in that election under an elected government triggered the idea to introduce caretaker governments. However, most caretaker cabinets appointed for general elections, including the one appointed in 1990 under Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, the leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly, hardly qualified as neutral or non-partisan.