The dated formality of the caretaker mode of government, one that is specific to Pakistan as the only democracy to adopt this method to oversee free and fair elections in the country, has roused anticipated squabbling and standoffs. In another episode of unreasonable delays in carrying forth paramount parliamentary decisions, owing to the chronic filibustering of party leaders, Mr. Shah has gone one step further and refused further consultation with the PM altogether. It has been a spectacle of dithering and deadlocks where the opposition leader and PM Abbasi have met six times without reaching a consensus on a candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister, one that signals acute intractability on both ends of the departing establishment.

Where Mr. Shah holds the PML-N responsible for backtracking on proposed candidates, the opposition leaders’ ire is slightly misplaced in allotting the blame completely to the ruling party. Such a deadlock is by no means unique or unprecedented and has occurred before in the haranguing task of electing an interim government-as in the 2013 polls- and can be ascribed to routine obstinacy and intrinsic opposition between the two opposed wings of the establishment.

Where the vocation itself is relatively obscure and transitory, with limited powers and tenure, the purpose of a caretaker prime minister and cabinet is to prevent political interference in the electoral process, a task that bears clout in its own right in an electoral system susceptible to subversion. Where a mutual agreement on a caretaker prime minister should not be such an insurmountable task and should uphold the democratic spirit, it is predictable that the tenuous political climate and intractability of our political matrix would only result in a locking of heads at this junction.

The candidates proposed by all parties are sound and adequate, however, the matter being referred to the parliamentary committee changes the game for many players. Yet the issue is just as likely to reach another impasse if all four members from the PPP are nominated for representation in the committee; eventually the matter will have to be deferred to the ECP, an alternative that no doubt speaks to the inherent unruliness and unamiability of the political process, more pronounced in our end of the world.

However, ultimately, if the decision is left to the ECP, the outcome might be more favourable, much like the appointment of Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, where the candidate chosen might be received with all around equanimity, conceding the indisputable constitutional nature of the decision by a neutral body.