National Assembly scheduled to be dissolved late at night

History was made in Pakistan on Saturday with its Lower House — the National Assembly — and Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government, both completing a full five-year term — a first in the 66-yearsof the nation’s existence. The National Assembly was scheduled to be dissolved late at night after a televised address to the nation by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

The dissolution of the House, exactly five years after it met for the first time on March 17, 2008, is being billed as a historic milestone, given Pakistan’s frequent trysts with military dictatorships and machinations of the security establishment that have cut short the term of the National Assembly more than once in the past.

With the dissolution, the current dispensation is to step down, making way for a caretaker set-up.

Though the dates have not yet been announced, elections are expected to be wrapped up by mid-May, making them the first elections followed by a democratic transition ever under civilian watch in Pakistan.

Though the Assembly managed to complete its term despite persistent doomsday predictions,there is stalemate — between government and opposition — over who will be the caretaker Premier.

As per all indications, nominees suggested by each side have been rejected by the other.

According to Article 224 of the Constitution, the two sides have three days after the Assembly’s dissolution to come to an agreement, failing which the matter will automatically go to the eight-member parliamentary committee. If the committee also fails to reach a consensus, it will be up to the Election Commission to select a caretaker Premier, taking it out of the domain of the political class.