Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister sworn in as people celebrate Independence Day

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Former Pakistani Senator Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar was sworn in on Monday as the country’s prime minister to head a caretaker government that will oversee parliamentary elections during one of the country’s worst economic crises.

Kakar, who is comparatively new to politics and is close to the powerful military, has represented his Baluchistan province in the Senate since 2018. President Arif Alvi administered the oath of office to him inside a white marble palace known as the Presidency in a brief ceremony.

Kakar quit as the head of his small Baluchistan Awami Party on Sunday and resigned as a senator after being named by outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and opposition leader Raza Riaz to oversee the vote and run the administration’s day-to-day affairs until the people elect a new government. It is normal practice in Pakistan to appoint a caretaker government for the election period.

Under the constitution, the election should be held in the next 90 days.

The swearing-in took place as Pakistan celebrated its 77th Independence Day amid deepening political turmoil, which began after the ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan 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.

Security was high across the nation following multiple attacks over 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 and killed by gunmen as he was heading home in Sukkur, a district in southern Sindh province, police said. The motive for the killing was unclear and officers were still investigating.

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

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

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

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

Khan is unable to take part in the election unless his conviction is overturned because no one with a criminal conviction can lead a party, run in elections or hold public office. He has appealed the ruling.

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