Political wheeling and dealing in full swing
18 March, 2013
ISLAMABAD: A day after the country's first democratically elected government completed its full five-year term, political wheeling and dealing over the formation of a caretaker set-up to lead the country in the run-up to general election due by mid-May continued at full pace.
As the government and the opposition went ahead with their efforts to reach consensus on a name for the caretaker prime minister, some new names also surfaced in the run for the all-important slot.
Both ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have already rejected all names proposed by the either side for the caretaker prime minister. They, however, voice hope that matter won't be referred to the eight-member government-opposition joint parliamentary committee and will be amicably settled between leader of the house and leader of the opposition.
"We are trying to create consensus over interim government. The government has reservations over the names proposed by the opposition, but we are still open to listen to the opposition," ruling PPP spokesman Qamar Zaman Kaira said.
The PML-N also expressed similar sentiments. "Consultations on the caretaker prime minister are taking place within the party and with other opposition parties," party spokesman Siddiqul Farooq said. "The name of caretaker prime minister will, hopefully, be decided by the prime minister and the leader of opposition."
Political pundits believe any deal between the two parties will base on a give and take in Centre and the province of Punjab.
On Sunday, Pakhtukhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai, noted lawyer and human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir, PPP leader Raza Rabbani, Senator Afrasiab Khattak and PML-N's Ishaq Dar also joined the race for the slot of interim prime minister.
The PML-N has so far not come up with its nominations for the parliamentary committee to be constituted for appointment of chief caretaker set-up if prime minister and the opposition leader fail to agree on a name.
Composition of parliamentary committee is not a sweet pill to chew for the PML-N, especially when it comes to including JUI-F and the MQM in the body. Maulana Fazlur Rahman is angry with the PML-N over its unilateral decision to withdraw name of Justice (r) Shakirullah Jan from the list of proposed candidates.
A PML-N delegation comprising Raja Zafarul Haq and Ishaq Dar met Fazl on Sunday but, reportedly, failed to pacify him. If PML-N ignores JUI-F in the parliamentary committee, the seat adjustment plan in KP and Balochistan with the religious party may run into jeopardy.
PML-N is not on easy terms with MQM as well, and it doesn't want to give it representation in the committee. However, in the absence of any valid legal or constitutional reason to keep MQM out, PML-N may risk putting very legality of the committee into question.
Government has already announced names of Khursheed Shah, Farooq Naek, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Chaudhry Shujaat for the committee.
On Sunday, Makhdoom Amin Fahim held a meeting with PPP former ally Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Both leaders discussed in detail different options for the appointment of interim prime minister. Fazl informed Amin Fahim about his reservations regarding PML-N's decision to drop name of Justice (r) Shakirullah Jan from the list of proposed candidates.
On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain indicated that the issue of appointment of interim prime minister will be resolved by the parliamentary committee, adding that the need will not arise to refer the issue to the Election Commission.
He said his party had proposed the name of Dr Ishrat Hussain for the caretaker prime minister while names of Justice (r) Zahid Hussain Bukhari and Hafeez Akhtar Randhawa have been given for the Punjab chief minister slot.
The nomination of the interim prime minister can't be delayed beyond March 24 – with March 19 deadline for the prime minister and the opposition leader to agree on a name; March 22 for the parliamentary committee to announce its decision; and March 24 for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to eventually install a head of the caretaker government. The ECP's decision will be final.
The Election Commission has recommended polling on May 8, 9 or 10, but President Asif Zardari is yet to announce a date for the elections.