ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Wednesday replied in the negative to Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah’s inquiry whether he had any plan to dissolve the National Assembly before the completion of its tenure.
After his meeting with the prime minister on the installation of a caretaker government for conducting the coming general elections, Mr Shah told reporters he had in fact asked the question about the possibility of early dissolution of the assembly because he wanted to know if Mr Abbasi desired setting up of the caretaker government for 60 days or 90 days.
Mr Shah, who belongs to the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, said the prime minister had categorically told him that they would continue to work even till the last day of the government’s tenure.
Mr Shah then explained that under the Constitution, if the National Assembly completed its five-year term then general elections were required to be held within 60 days and if it was dissolved even a day before completion of its term, then the elections were to be held in 90 days.
Later, Mr Shah briefed a delegation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), another opposition party, about his consultation with the prime minister.
Talking to reporters along with PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the opposition leader said the prime minister had told him that he had not yet consulted other partners in the ruling coalition. He said Mr Abbasi had not proposed any name for a caretaker prime minister and had sought time for consultations with his allies.
“The prime minister said he will propose names for a caretaker prime minister after taking his allies on board. I also told him that I will also propose names after consultation with other opposition parties,” Mr Shah said.
He said he had started consultation with the opposition parties, asking them to provide him their proposed names for a caretaker set-up. He said the opposition wanted to complete the process of the nomination of caretaker prime minister by May 15 – two weeks before the end of the term of the incumbent government.
The opposition leader said during the meeting which lasted for nearly an hour, they also discussed the prevailing political situation in the country. He said he had told the prime minister the outgoing PML-N government had no right to present a budget for the entire coming fiscal year.
Mr Shah said he had suggested to the prime minister that they should present the budget only for the next four months to cater to the needs of the interim set-up and to provide an opportunity to the next government to present its own budget for the remaining period.
This was the second formal meeting between the prime minister and the opposition leader on the issue of caretaker government.
Mr Shah had previously stated that the opposition had been trying to suggest the names of persons with good repute as transparency and fairness of the election depended upon the conduct of caretaker set-up.
Under the constitution, consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader is a must for appointment of a caretaker government to conduct general elections in a fair and transparent manner.
The PTI also wants a role in the process of the appointment of caretaker governments at the Centre and in the four provinces. Party chairman Imran Khan in his recent press conferences had categorically said they would not allow the PPP and the PML-N to strike a deal on the appointment of caretaker set-up as the two parties had allegedly done in 2013.
Being a ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in the opposition in Punjab, the PTI will now have a direct role in the appointment of caretaker governments in the two provinces.
The PTI seems to be more worried about caretaker government in Punjab knowing that the party which wins most of the seats in the province takes the driving seat in the formation of government at the Centre after general elections.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi thanked the opposition leader for taking his party on board on the issue of caretaker government. He said they would suggest the name for the office of caretaker prime minister after consultations within the party.
The PTI chairman has already convened a meeting of the party’s central executive committee on Thursday (today) and party leaders say the issue of caretaker set-up is likely to be discussed in the meeting.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018