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ISLAMABAD: The gover­nment and the opposition Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP) have reached an understanding to delay annou­ncing the names of the caretaker set-up probables and keep their discussions under wraps as long as possible to avoid unnecessary debate in the media on the issue.

Sources said Prime Minis­ter Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah had in their first meeting agreed that they would not disclose the names of their respective nominees for the office of caretaker prime minister till last mom­ent in order to avoid “controversies” over the names.

The prime minister and the opposition leader had already held two or three formal meetings on the issue, but each time they claimed before the media that they had not discussed or exchanged the names so far.

Talking to Dawn on Sun­day, Mr Shah said he might meet the prime minister in the next two or three days to have another round of consultations with him on the issue. He confirmed that he had reached an understanding with Mr Abbasi that they would exchange the names in their last meeting and that the names, if came under discussion, would not be disclosed to the media.

“Exactly, it is so” was the response of Mr Shah when asked if this was an intentional move to delay the talks and keep the names secret. He said he had also requested his party’s leadership to have a discussion on the issue only at the last moment, claiming that even the PPP had not yet finalised the names of possible candidates for the post of caretaker prime minister.

“You see, there are people in the parties who leak information to appease their friends in the media,” he said, adding that it always became difficult for the parties to reach a consensus due to unnecessary comments and criticism on the names of the probables after these were circulated in the media.

Quoting an example, Mr Shah said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had recently leaked the names of its candidates through the media and most of the PTI nominees had already become controversial when the media associated them with former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf.

He said he had requested PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi to give him the names in a sealed envelope. However, he regretted that the PTI had released the names of its nominees to the media.

The PTI had last month leaked the names of its candidates for the offices of caretaker PM and chief ministers in three provinces to the media. Its nominees for the caretaker prime minister were former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, businessman Abdur Razzaq Dawood and economist Dr Ishrat Hussain.

Mr Shah had criticised the PTI for leaking the names to the media, terming it a “non-serious attitude” of the party. He had declared that he did not feel necessary now to hold further consultations with the PTI since it had already leaked the names of its nominees to the media.

The PTI later released an official handout stating that it had not officially released the names to the media and that the party was still discussing the matter.

PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to Dawn on Sunday, again claimed that the party had not yet finalised the names for the caretaker set-up. He, however, confirmed that the names appeared in the media had been under discussion at the party meetings, but no name had been finalised yet.

Mr Qureshi, who had been an active member of the PPP before joining the PTI in November 2011, said the opposition leader was justified in expressing his displeasure as the latter had been consulting him on the issue of caretaker set-up in good faith. He said the names were under discussion but someone had provided them to the media “only to prove himself a well-informed person” in the party.

The PTI leader said he would meet Mr Shah on Monday (today) to discuss a strategy for the ongoing budget session and the issue of caretaker set-up could also come under discussion.

When contacted, PTI information secretary Fawad Chaudhry criticised the government and the PPP for keeping the discussion on the caretaker set-up “secret”.

“We are not appointing atomic scientists. This is a political course. Why the PPP and the PML-N want to keep the names secret?” he asked, adding that the media had every right to discuss the pros and cons of the candidates.

He said that even PTI chairman Imran Khan was of the view that there should be a public debate on the names of candidates for the caretaker set-up. He was of the opinion that Mr Shah, PM Abbasi and Mr Qureshi should make the names public to allow the people to scrutinise them.

The term of the present government expires on May 31, after which the caretaker set-up will be put in place to hold elections which are expected to be held in July or August.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2018