With the government finishing its five-year term on May 31, the 2018 general elections are on the horizon. The parliament stood dissolved in the midnight of May 31, with the country entering the mode of preparation of election scheduled for July 25.On May 28, the government and the opposition finalised the name of former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Nasirul Mulk, as acting prime minister. In Pakistan, instead of the elected government adopting the ‘interim mode’ once its term is over, as is the norm all over the world, unelected officials are appointed to form an interim caretaker government to oversee the elections and transition phase.According to a report by Democracy Reporting International (DRI), a non-profit organisation that claims to promote political participation of citizens, the responsibility of state agencies and the development of democratic institutions around the world, Pakistan is the only democratic country that adopts this method. The interim cabinet in Pakistan has one main job: to create an environment conducive to free and fair elections in the country.Apart from this, the provisional government is also responsible for carrying out the routine functions of the government. The caretaker’s configuration must be impartial and has no political affiliation so that he/she does not attempt to interfere in the electoral process. The question of the government at the time of the elections has become the main problem of confrontation in Pakistan’s politics. Therefore, this article attempts to describe how elections are conducted in established democracies.The interim cabinet in Pakistan has one real job: to create an environment conducive to free and fair elections in the countryAccording to Carl J. Fredrick, “Mr Churchill, the ex-prime minister of the UK, had formed the non-party caretaker government for the first time in the world and conducted a general election in 1945 in Britain to manage an unprecedented emergency, which occurred as a result of the collapse of France and danger of imminent invasion.”The ‘guardian’ government still existed in the United Kingdom. In accordance with the 2011 fixed-term mandate law, the parliament automatically dissolves at 12:01 am on March 30, which is 25 working days before a general election. This pre-election period is known as ‘purdah’, which is used by central and local governments to describe the period immediately preceding elections or referendums.In Australia, during elections, the outgoing government becomes a ‘guardian’. In Australian political and constitutional terminology, an interim government is a government for a period that begins when parliament is dissolved.“The caretaker period begins at the time the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear or, if there is a change of government until the new government is appointed,” writes Fredrick.Like the United Kingdom and Australia, there is an ‘interim’ government practice in New Zealand. Its cabinet manual suggests that governments choose to restrict their actions to some extent during the period of about three months before the election or from the date an election is announced, within three months of the election date.In India, the government at the time of the dissolution of Lok Sabha usually continues until the end of the electoral process,and the new government is ready to take over. Article 75 of the Constitution of India allows ministers, including the Prime Minister, to stay for six months without being a member of either chamber. The Indian Supreme Court stated that: “Apart from the technical difficulty of carrying out the many details of a general election in such a situation the President might have to dismiss the Ministry and install a caretaker government to co-operate with him in ordering a general election.”Now, what are the elections like in these countries? Are there questions of credibility of elections in the UK, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand? Research and evidence show that elections in these countries are conducted in accordance with ‘international standards’ and are ‘free from corruption, intimidation and other abuses’.Article 224 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan stipulates that general elections must be held within 60 days of the expiry of the Assembly’s term of office and that the president must appoint an acting prime minister in consultation with the prime minister and leader of the opposition of the outgoing National Assembly. The interim cabinet members are in turn appointed in consultation with the acting prime minister. So can we say that the current PML-N government will continue for more than 60 days?However, in the absence of a clear framework for the interim government’s mandate and given the many internal and external challenges that Pakistan faces, the interim cabinet should be on guard even if it makes no long-term decision at all.An interim government is a big question mark in a country like Pakistan, and we usually believe that the interim government is always under the influence of the preceding government. The only thing we can do is pray that the 2018 elections are conducted without any wrongdoings.The writer is an advocate High Court Islamabad and teaches at the Best Law College, RawalpindiPublished in Daily Times, June 4th 2018.