ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition partners for the first time on Tuesday formally discussed the probable names for a caretaker prime minister and possible dates for dissolution of the National Assembly and holding of the general election.
Briefing the media after a meeting of the coalition parties, jointly presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at the Presidency, the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed that the participants had “discussed probable names for the caretaker prime minister”.
A number of participants, however, remained tight-lipped, saying they could not disclose the names because the discussion was at a preliminary stage.
The MQM’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, Dr Farooq Sattar, told Dawn that the president had asked coalition partners to suggest their own names for the caretaker prime minister and a date for the elections.
He said they would meet again for another round of discussion on important issues after holding consultations within their respective parties. He claimed that the meeting had remained unfinished since it had taken no decisions. The meeting, which lasted almost three hours, was attended by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and secretary general Mushahid Hussain Syed, Dr Farooq Sattar, Babar Ghouri and Raza Haroon of the MQM, Afrasiab Khattak and Haji Mohammad Adeel of the ANP, Munir Khan Orakzai, Hameedullah Jan Afridi and Senator Abbas Khan Afridi from Fata, Israrullah Zehri of the BNP-A and Senator Farhatullah Babar and federal ministers Syed Khurshid Shah, Nazar Muhammad Gondal and Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP.
The meeting took place a day after the PPP completed its own internal discussions on the issue at a meeting at the Presidency on Monday night.
Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the government was considering dissolving the National Assembly between March 10 and 14, a few days before completion of its five-year term.
Farhatullah Babar said the coalition partners had discussed the forthcoming elections and the caretaker set-up and Law Minister Farooq H. Naek was specially summoned to brief the meeting on constitutional provisions relating to holding of elections and appointment of caretaker set-up.
After the law minister’s briefing, Mr Babar said, some “tentative discussion also took place on the probable names for the caretaker prime minister”.
The coalition partners expressed their views on various dimensions of the issues involved, he said, adding that the meeting expressed the resolve that elections would be held on time and nomination of a caretaker set-up would be made in accordance with the Constitution.
Mr Naek informed the participants that under the Constitution, the caretaker prime minister shall be appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. In case of disagreement within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, the prime minister and the opposition leader shall forward two nominees each to a committee to be constituted by the National Assembly Speaker. It shall comprise eight members of the outgoing assembly or the Senate or both having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition.
Mr Babar said the coalition partners had agreed to strengthen their cooperation and have more regular contacts and consultations as the elections drew near.
The president also hosted a dinner for participants of the meeting.
Earlier in the day, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters that the government wanted to evolve a consensus on the caretaker set-up and holding of elections for national and provincial assemblies on the same day. Consultations with all political forces for the purpose were under way, he added.
He said the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had hinted that it was not necessary that elections for all assemblies should be held on one day, adding that it was possible but the government was holding consultations with all political forces to reach a consensus date for the elections.
About a probable name for the caretaker prime minister, Mr Kaira expressed the hope that the prime minister and the opposition leader would agree upon a name which would be acceptable to the entire nation.