As the public sees it, Pakistan’s prime ministers hold the nation in the palm of their hands. It is true that ‘head-of-government’ is not a title to be taken lightly. But with a lofty title comes a list of expectations daunting enough to justify the amount of political fervour that surrounds every election.
Nearly six decades ago, the constitution allowed the president of Pakistan to appoint a prime minister. It also permitted presidents to dissolve federal and provincial assemblies. In 2010, the president’s powers diminished and were withdrawn – to be transferred to the prime minister. This shift from presidential to parliamentary governance was neither swift nor painless.
The prime minister thus became ‘Chief Executive’. In Pakistan, prime ministers appoint and head their own cabinet which makes up the executive branch of government – independent from the legislative and judicial branches. Hence prime ministers essentially oversee all internal and external affairs. They decide what happens and when.
A prime reason why their powers extend so far is because they can appoint ministers and executives of other departments: the army and intelligence agency. Technically, the president carries out the act of appointing; however, the prime minister submits nominations. The implication is crystal clear. If they choose, prime ministers can interfere in key areas of governance and security – with the intent to plunder.
That is why it is so important Imran Khan never make a misstep. To understand why being prime minister is such a powerful thing, it can be compared to the captaining a ship analogy – a ship with a bomb in its belly. If you get your wires crossed, it means game over.
However, Imran Khan – by virtue of being PM – cannot topple the judiciary. Supreme Court judges, for one, are their own glorified beings imbued with the promise of independent powers. Law making is still a lengthy process debated democratically in the National Assembly. Moreover, the military remains a stronghold capable of tremendous feats. One man does not a nation make.