A political decision it should be
In countries where democratic traditions are just striking roots two institutions are needed to ensure non-controversial elections: an independent election commission and an impartial caretaker setup after the assemblies have been dissolved. The 18th amendment brought into existence the first while the politically unbiased administrative machinery envisaged under the 20th amendment has yet to be put in place. The framework laid out by the 20th amendment seeks the appointment of a caretaker prime minister and chief ministers in consultation with the opposition leader in the assembly. If the PM/CMs and opposition leader fail to nominate one with consensus, the matter is to be referred to a parliamentary committee with equal members from the treasury and opposition. In case of failure on the part of the committee to reach an agreement the matter would be decided by the Election Commission.
In a cavalier like attitude the leader of the opposition has maintained that there is no need for talks between the government and the PML-N. What is required, according to him, is to wait for the constitutional process to start. In case the two sides fail to overcome the differences, let the matter be decided by the Election Commission. What Ch Nisar fails to realize is that the Election Commission was given the powers only to avoid a deadlock. It is the duty of both the government and the opposition to ensure that a situation like that does not arise. A reference to the unelected body would indicate that the politicians had failed to fulfil their duty. What is more, referring the matter to the EC would amount to the yielding of political turf to institutions outside parliament.
To avoid the unhappy situation the political parties need to start negotiations at the earliest. While the PPP set up a seven-member committee four weeks back, and the PML-N simultaneously expressed keenness to open discussions on the matter, little progress has been made so far. Both PPP and PML-N have stressed the need to consult the mainstream parties outside the parliament also. Despite the fact that it is not binding under the constitution, it might be useful to undertake the exercise. What is of utmost importance, however, is the initiation of a serious dialogue between the PPP and the PML-N. Among other things that need to be decided is that the role of the caretaker PM would be confined only to overseeing the elections and looking after the day to day running of the official machinery for three months. He is not supposed to take policy decisions nor write the letter to Swiss authorities.