ISLAMABAD: In a more than three-hour-long brainstorming session at the Presidency on Wednesday, the coalition partners approved in principle the government’s strategy to engage the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in broad-based talks, including for nomination of a consensus caretaker prime minister and four chief ministers, and dissolution of national and provincial assemblies on the same day.
“Under the agreed plan, the government’s negotiators led by Pakistan People’s Party’s Syed Khursheed Shah would hold talks with the PML-N with Plan-A and B in the bag.Per Plan A, the government would express its consent for nomination of former ambassador to UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon as the caretaker PM. However, a bargain could take place over consensus nomination of caretaker chief ministers in Punjab and Balochistan, with PML-N’s nominee given a lead with a precondition that the Punjab Assembly would be dissolved along with other three provincial and National Assembly on the same date,” a participant of the meeting told Pakistan Today, requesting anonymity.
The source said it was surprising for President Asif Ali Zardari that neither of the coalition partners, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, PML-Quaid or the Awami National Party objected to Haroon’s nomination.Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said it was a good call as Haroon’s family had served with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his party would, therefore, welcome the nomination. “We are hopeful that the formula would work and both the PPP and PML-N would be in a win-win situation if Haroon is named consensus candidate. However, if an agreement is not reached, the Plan-B would come to the fore,” the source said, adding that all quarters concerned, including the establishment were also taken onboard for Haroon’s nomination.
The source said the president was confident that the PML-N would also agree to the government’s proposal, adding that the Sharifs would be happy on appointment of a chief minister nominated by them in Punjab.The source said the PPP leadership would also hold a follow-up meeting with its coalition parties after talks with the PML-N were concluded to give a final nod to its future plans.He said the meeting of coalition parties also discussed a proposal to dissolve the assemblies in the first week of March and holding polls by middle of May. The source said President Zardari also shared with coalition partners some other names for caretaker prime minister.
“The president told the meeting that both the PPP and PML-N wanted to appoint a non-controversial figure as caretaker PM acceptable to the government as well as the opposition,” the source said. He added that this would bring about a win-win situation for both sides of the political divide, as the Sharifs would have no problem with Haroon, who is an apolitical figure and has no political ambitions. During the meeting, Shujaat Hussain also proposed the name of former senator SM Zafar, stating that he was a non-controversial person and dependable. However, the nomination was deferred by the partners for the time being.
The source said Haroon was a better choice as Asma Jahangir’s nomination may strongly be rejected by many quarters, including the GHQ and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and some religious outfits, and her nomination might ignite controversy and unrest among political circles and other institutions.“However, the president said the government’s candidate Hussain Haroon would most likely be a joint nominee of opposition and the government,” the source added. The source said Shujaat also asked Zardari to give a clear-cut roadmap for election schedule to get rid of confusion and speculation in the media.
The president said there was a need to hold talks with the provincial governments for dissolution of all assemblies on a single date so that the election could be held on the same day. “Otherwise, the ruling coalition may suffer as the PML-N would get advantage of the situation,” the source quoted the president as telling the meeting.Zardari also directed Law Minister Farooq H Naik to brief the meeting on legal hurdles. “The law minister briefed the meeting over the legal aspects of dissolution of assemblies, stating that there was a need to dissolve all five assemblies on the same date so that polls could be held on the same date. He told the participants that the five-year term of Punjab Assembly would expire on April 18 while the National Assembly’s term would expire on March 16. So there is a need to hold negotiations with the PML-N leadership so that the Punjab Assembly could also be dissolved on the same date,” the source added.