Interim PM ball lobbed in committee's court
20 March, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The ball is lobbed in parliamentary committee's court as Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Opposition Leader Chuadhry Nisar Ali Khan failed to reach consensus on a name for appointment as caretaker prime minister.
The three-day deadline for both the leaders to make a decision expired midnight Tuesday.
National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, in pursuance of Clause 1 of Article 224 (A) of the constitution, has constituted an eight-member government-opposition joint parliamentary committee for the appointment of interim prime minister.
The government has already unveiled four names from the PPP and its allied parties to sit in the committee. PPP's Syed Khursheed Shah and Farooq Naek, ANP's Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and PML-Q's Mushahid Hussain Syed will be part of the committee from the government side.
However, PML-N has ignored other political parties sitting in the opposition and nominated all four members from its own ranks, sparking a severe criticism from MQM and the JUI-F against this 'unconstitutional' move.
Since PPP needs only one vote from the opposition to install a caretaker prime minister of its own choice, PML-N is not taking the risk of giving representation to PPP's former allies JUI-F and MQM, who are now in opposition, in the parliamentary committee. Sardar Mahtab Abbasi, Sardar Yaqoob Nasir, Pervez Rasheed and Khawaja Saad Rafiq will represent the opposition in the committee.
The committee has three days - until March 22 - to nominate a person for the caretaker prime minister, failing which the matter will be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan to announce a decision unilaterally within two days.
The committee will hold its first meeting today afternoon at the Parliament House.
The PPP had initially proposed names of Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso for the position of caretaker PM. It later withdrew the name of Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. While, the PML-N had proposed names of Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (r) Shakirullah Jan and Rasul Bakhsh Palijo. It withdrew Justice (r) Shakirullah Jan's name subsequently.
As the decision of appointing a head of the interim set-up slipped from the hands of prime minister and opposition leader and the deadline to make a final decision drew closer, hectic political manoeuvring was witnessed in the country on Tuesday.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who returned late night from Dubai, has summoned a meeting of his party to discuss the issues of caretaker setup in Centre and provinces, especially Punjab. He has reportedly directed Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to try to alleviate concerns of JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman regarding the interim prime minister.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the Pakistan People's Party and discussed the issue of caretaker set-up.
In another development, PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah and PML-N leader Senator Ishaq Dar held a meeting to discuss matters pertaining to caretaker set up in the Centre and Punjab. Talking to newsmen after their meeting, both leaders dismissed the impression of any 'deadlock' between the government and the opposition and hoped the issue will be resolved amicably as soon as PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif returns home.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that his party's stance on the issue of caretaker prime minister was not inflexible in any way. He said that the parliamentary democracy has a historical opportunity to capitalise and added, "Our party role will be jotted down in the history in golden words. Why we will adopt an intransigent stance."
However, Ch Nisar told reporters that PPP was to be blamed for what he called a stalemate on the issue of appointment of caretaker prime minister. He feared even the parliamentary committee may not be able to resolve the issue.
In an interesting development, Supreme Court Bar Association former president Asma Jahangir refused to take any office in the caretaker set-up. While thanking both major political parties of the country for proposing her name, she said that she was not candidate for caretaker premiership, chief minister's office or even municipal committee chairman.