ISLAMABAD: Despite outright rejection of the government nominations for the slot of the caretaker prime minister by the opposition PML-N, efforts were still on to evolve consensus on some name at the first stage of consultation to fill the important position.
After Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry conveyed his party’s refusal to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the outgoing premier postponed his Friday night farewell address to the nation so he could avail another chance for evolving consensus on caretaker PM when he meets the chief ministers of all the four provinces at a farewell lunch.
The PPP too has already rejected the PML-N nominations and now there is a deadlock over the issue. PM Secretariat sources informed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has confirmed his presence at the lunch being hosted by PM Raja. They said the deadlock on caretaker prime minister and holding of elections for both national and provincial assemblies on same day would definitely figure in the meeting.Earlier in the day, Ch Nisar told the media that the PNL-N has withdrawn the name of Justice (r) Shakirullah Jan from its side. Sources said that the prime minister has also decided to drop the name of former Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh because PML-N was bitterly opposed to his nomination.
Sources said the withdrawal of Justice (r) Shakirullah came as the PM Raja through some back channel had conveyed to Nisar to float some other names that could be acceptable to the PPP so that the deadlock could be broken. The remaining two opposition nominees are Rasul Baksh Palejo and Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid. Sources aware of the telephonic contact between the prime minister and leader of opposition informed that Raja wanted to have a meeting with Nisar, who declined it politely.In his press conference, Nisar said the PML-N was moving on the issue in consultation of other opposition parties and the name proposed by the government side were not acceptable to them. But he said it had been agreed with the prime minister that the consultation would continue and if the consensus is not achieved, new names could be considered.
Nisar said the three names proposed by the PM were rejected as Abdul Hafiz Sheikh had remained finance minister until just some 15 days back; Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khose was too aged while he also had been close to slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto; and impartiality of Dr Ishrat Hussain, who served as State Bank governor during Musharraf regime, was also under question. Nisar also said that any personality backed by international financial institutions would not be acceptable for this slot. To a question, he said that his party would not accept a caretaker prime minister unacceptable to other opposition parties.
In case the PM and leader of opposition fail to reach a consensus on a single name, they both would forward two names each to an eight-member committee to be constituted by national assembly speaker on their recommendations to decide a name within three days to the dissolution of the assembly.But if the committee also fails, the matter would go to Election Commission of Pakistan which would have two days to pick any of the four names floated by PM and leader of opposition to fill the slot of caretaker PM.
The last date for completion of the three-stage exercise is March 24 but the matter could be settled at some early date, provided the stakeholders reach consensus. Sources said that the Saturday lunch meeting between the prime minister and Punjab chief minister would be crucial and there is possibility that both sides would agree to some mutually acceptable name.The sources further said that the deadlock at federal level would definitely reflect in Punjab as well where the PPP led opposition is yet to accept any of the two names proposed by CM Shahbaz Sharif. They said the issue of holding of elections of national and provincial assemblies on same day is also linked to the selection of the caretaker PM while the composition of caretaker cabinets at federal and Punjab level are also linked to it.
Nisar in his media talk said they would not strike any underhand deal on the selection of caretaker prime minister and caretaker chief ministers in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. He warned that if a transparent caretaker setup is not brought in Sindh, the Punjab Assembly (PA) will be dissolved on April 9 (when its constitutional term expires) and not along with National Assembly and other provincial assemblies. – Nation