No country for old men?
BY choosing Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, aged 83 and a half years, as the caretaker prime minister, the Election Commission of Pakistan has added another member to the ‘club of elders’ that is going to rule and decide the country’s fate in the interim period before the elected government is installed by June 2013.
To have elderly and hopefully wise persons running the country could be reassuring in these difficult times.
The Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, turned 85 on February 12, 2013 and is thus older than Khoso. As it appeared on television, he had difficulty remembering and pronouncing Khoso’s full name while announcing his selection to the media, and had to be helped by Election Commission members Justice (r) Fazlur Rahman from Balochistan and Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, his advanced years haven’t prevented him until now from discharging his duties responsibly and gracefully. His old age was cited as the reason for him being unfit for the job when Shahid Orakzai, a journalist who has turned into a perennial litigant in matters of public interest, challenged his appointment in the Supreme Court last July by arguing that the work of the chief election commissioner was hectic and laborious. As has happened in almost all the cases pursed by him, Orakzai failed to secure a favourable judgement from the judges.
Having retired from service, the other four members of the Election Commission are also old, certainly in their late 60s if not older with Justice (r) Riaz Kayani being the oldest. Two of the three caretaker chief ministers already named are judges, having retired after attaining superannuation. Sindh caretaker Chief Minister Justice (r) Zahid Qurban Alvi is 72 years old, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker Chief Minister Justice (r) Tariq Pervez is 65 years old.
The Balochistan caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai is relatively young at 59 years old, having retired from government service after serving for 22 years in the health department as a doctor. In fact, he also served in the caretaker government formed prior to the 2008 general election as a provincial minister in Balochistan. He is stated to be apolitical and thus suitable for the job, but being a ‘veteran’ caretaker was an added qualification for him to secure the job of caretaker chief minister. Most of the nine caretaker ministers named in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet are also retired bureaucrats and, therefore, old.
The choice of Khoso as caretaker prime minister by the Election Commission’s five members, all retired judges, also showed that those associated with the judiciary are in the driving seat in present-day Pakistan. Though there were four candidates, the frontrunners were both former judges. In the end, Khoso got four votes and his main rival, Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid, obtained one from the Election Commission’s Punjab member, Riaz Kayani. The politician, Rasool Bakhsh Palejo and the banker, Dr Ishrat Hussain, didn’t get any vote from the five judges sitting in judgement as the chief election commissioner and members of the Election Commission.
In fact, all four candidates for the caretaker prime minister’s office were old. The youngest among them was Dr Ishrat Hussain, stated to be 74 years old and described by PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah as the only ‘young man’ in the list. Dr Ishrat Hussain looks even younger than his age and is quite energetic.
To his bad luck, the PML-N people who opposed his candidature didn’t seem to have read his articles or heard his comments on television in which he had criti- cised the economic policies and performance of the PPP-led coalition government. It appears they had to oppose him because his name was proposed by the PPP or that he had served as the State Bank governor during General Pervez Musharraf’s rule.
Palejo, who had the least chance of making it to the Prime Minister House due to strong opposition by the PPP and was reportedly proposed by the PML-N to appease the Sindhi nationalists, was the oldest at 87. In fact, his name should not have been proposed at all, as he is in politics despite his age and has for years been a political opponent of the PPP in Sindh. Though his son, Ayaz Latif Palejo, has replaced him as head of the Awami Tehreek, the elder Palejo continues to make political speeches and voice his strong views on a host of issues.
Nasir Aslam Zahid, the second PMLN nominee for the job, is 84 years old. He was unlucky not to get either of the two