ISLAMABAD: Just one day before the process for selection of a caretaker prime minister goes to a parliamentary committee, the PML-N has finalised four names from the opposition side for the eight-member bipartisan panel.
“We will send the names to National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza after Monday midnight or Tuesday,” PML-N spokesman Senator Mushahidullah told Dawn on Monday.
He said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had finalised the names. He did not disclose the names, but said one was from the Senate and the rest from the National Assembly.
It is learnt that all four names are from the PML-N as it has no confidence in any leaders in other opposition parties.
The PML-N had earlier considered nominating JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the committee, but later it dropped the idea fearing that he may support the PPP candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister.
“I cannot say whether they all are from the PML-N or not because they have been selected by Chaudhry Nisar,” the spokesman said.
According to constitutional experts, the PML-N has to give equal representation to all opposition parties in the committee. Otherwise its members will become controversial, they argued.
The PPP has already sent the names of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PPP leaders Farooq H. Naek and Khurshid Shah, and ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour to the speaker as its members for the parliamentary committee.
Meanwhile, back-channel efforts were under way by both sides to reach an agreement on any other candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister. The other possible candidates include Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, PPP leader Raza Rabbani, Ishaq Dar of the PML-N and Dr Shams Kasim Lakha, a former president of the Aga Khan University, Karachi.
The PPP had initially proposed the names of Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Dr Ishrat Husain, and Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso.
The PML-N’s candidates were Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan and Rasul Bakhsh Palijo.
A source in the PML-N said the names of the members of the parliamentary committee might be approved at a meeting of the party in Lahore after Nawaz Sharif’s return from abroad on Tuesday.
Under the constitution, if the parliamentary committee fails to nominate a consensus candidate within three days, the matter will automatically go to the Election Commission, which will have to finalise one name out of four, two each from the PPP and the PML-N, for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Sources told Dawn that the PML-N wanted the selection of the caretaker prime minister by the ECP because it believed that the commission would find its nominee, Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, suitable for the job.
But the PPP is confident that if the matter was referred to the ECP, Dr Ishrat Husain could emerge as a winner.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has postponed a farewell dinner planned for Tuesday for his staff at the prime minister’s secretariat to Wednesday.
Official sources told Dawn that since Tuesday was the last day for consultations with the leader of the opposition, the prime minister decided to postpone the dinner.
The media wing of the PM’s secretariat confirmed the postponement of the dinner.
“The prime minister has been directed by the party high command not to get busy in any unnecessary engagement because one last-ditch effort will be made by the PPP and the PML-N to reach a consensus on a candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister,” said a senior government official at the PM’s secretariat.
The prime minister and the leader of the opposition will have to propose one name to the president by Tuesday midnight before the matter goes to the parliamentary committee.
In reply to a question, the official said the prime minister had been asked to remain to be ready for consultations with Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan any time on Tuesday.
Talking to Dawn, a PPP leader said there could be a breakthrough after Nawaz Sharif’s return from his well-guarded trip to Geneva on Tuesday.
He said if the prime minister and the leader of the opposition failed to resolve the issue, both sides wanted the parliamentary committee to do the job in another three days. If the committee also failed, the ECP will have a final word on the issue.
The PPP leader said if the political leadership failed to name the caretaker prime minister, they would be taken to the task by the media and other sections of society because it would be considered a major failure on their part.
He said after the two sides had rejected each other’s initial nominees, some new names would surely come under discussion.
A PML-N source said a final round of discussion within his party would be held in Lahore on Tuesday to decide whether to select the caretaker prime minister at the first stage or leave the matter to the parliamentary committee.
The meeting will also finalise PML-N’s nominees for the caretaker chief minister of Punjab.