ISLAMABAD, Sept 15: The PML-N’s olive branch to Balochistan appears to have not borne fruit as the two nominees from the restive province in its list of possible premiers have refused to accept the coveted slot in the future interim set-up.
Sources told Dawn on Saturday that Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai had conveyed to the PML-N leadership that he was not ready to accept the offer to become a caretaker prime minister before the general election.
On Friday, veteran Baloch nationalist Sardar Ataullah Mengal, whose name has been proposed by the Pakistan Muslim League-N with six others, had turned down the offer. He termed his nomination a joke and said the proposal betrayed the casual attitude of the powers that be to the Balochistan crisis, dismissing it as flippant.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had on Thursday disclosed that Mr Mengal was among the seven people the PML-N had proposed to other parties for heading the caretaker government.
The PML-N stalwart had not revealed the other six names and only identified them by their professions, saying there were two former Supreme Court judges, one representative of the lawyers’ community and three politicians in the list.
Although the PML-N itself is not releasing the names officially, sources in the party and some other opposition partiers told Dawn that besides Mr Mengal, the list contained the names of former SC judges Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid and Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan, former Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jahangir, Mehmood Achakzai, former Jamaat-i-Islami amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed and former chairman of Awami Tehrik Rasool Bakhsh Palejo.
Chaudhry Nisar said that after getting response from all the parties, he would send two names to the government as the opposition’s nominee for the office of caretaker prime minister.
The sources said Mr Achakzai had recently met PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif at the Punjab House in Islamabad and showed his reluctance to accept the coveted post. The PkMAP chief, according to a participant of the meeting, told the PML-N leaders that he was still in the process of consultation within the party on the issue of contesting elections.
He was of the opinion that he was a politician and, therefore, could contest the next elections, which would obviously be not possible for him if he became the caretaker prime minister.
Instead, the sources said, Mr Achakzai expressed the desire that the two parties should increase contacts and take a united position on different national issues.
The possibility of an electoral alliance also came under discussion in the meeting which was also attended by Chaudhry Nisar, PML-N secretary general Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Khawaja Mohammad Asif, according to the sources.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan People’s Party on Saturday described the PML-N’s move to finalise its nominees for the caretaker PM as “premature and too early”.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the PPP had so far not discussed the issue of caretaker setup within the party. He said the party would take its coalition partners into confidence on the issue when the time came.
Mr Babar refused to comment on the names proposed by the PML-N, but said the PPP had previously accepted the PML-N’s nominee for the post of chief election commissioner and the issue of interim government would also be resolved amicably.