LAHORE: In another about-turn, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday withdrew the name of former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa for the post of caretaker chief minister of Punjab.

“Mr Khosa’s name has been withdrawn following backlash on social media, public media and within the party,” PTI’s central information secretary Fawad Chaudhry conveyed the party’s core group decision through a video message.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed his surprise over the PTI’s change of heart, saying Mr Khosa’s name had been given by the opposition and finalised after a thorough consultation. “It is beyond one’s comprehension why PTI withdrew the name of its own nominee after finalisation of the process,” he wondered.

Later in the evening, Mr Sharif said the issue of caretaker chief minister stood settled as a summary in this regard had already been sent to the Punjab governor that could not be legally withdrawn. The governor was expected to sign the summary on Thursday (today), he added.

While different quarters are saying that Mr Khosa may most likely himself decline to take charge as a controversial caretaker chief minister, Fawad Chaudhry retracted his name in the evening. He said the party was consulting on the names for the caretaker chief minister and would present new names on Thursday (today).

Shahbaz Sharif says issue stands settled as summary has been sent to Punjab governor for signing; PPP says Imran’s party has become a laughing stock

The PTI’s decision led to an uproar in the political arena of the country and its critics launched a tirade against the party leadership for their failure to take a mature decision. They questioned its morality over withdrawing a name it had agreed upon after due consultations.

Legal opinion was divided over whether either of the two parties could withdraw a name given after formal consultations and announcements.

PTI chairman Imran Khan had also rejected the previously decided Manzoor Afridi’s nomination for caretaker chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa only hours before the deadline on Monday. His name was allegedly withdrawn for being an outcome of a deal between the chief minister and the opposition leader in the KP Assembly.

The PTI took two days to withdraw its decision of nominating Mr Khosa, who had served as Punjab chief secretary under the command of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif from 2010 to 2013.

Fawad Chaudhry argued that holding general elections was a sensitive matter and any controversy in the beginning might lead to confusion.

It may be mentioned that Mr Chaudhry had also written a letter to the ‘nominated’ caretaker chief minister against the appointment of Asma Hamid as Advocate General for Punjab just two days before the expiry of the PML-N government’s five-year tenure.

Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed had twice met Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the latter’s party office and, after a thorough consultation with Imran Khan, floated the name of Mr Khosa, which was readily accepted by Mr Sharif.

In the wake of latest developments, critics also took strong exception to Mr Rasheed for his alleged ‘secret links’ with Shahbaz Sharif and the former responded by saying that “the name for caretaker chief minister was given by the party because no one could single-handedly take such a sensitive decision”.

Rejecting tirade against him, Mr Rasheed said: “The PTI is a disciplined party and no decision is taken without due consultation. The party committed mistake in haste.”

PTI Senator Shibli Fraz said Mr Khosa’s name had been proposed by Imran Khan after consultation with the first tier of the party. However, he said, the backlash came from the party’s second and third tiers and the chairman accepted the criticism without making his point of ego.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “Withdrawing Nasir Khosa’s name for the caretaker chief minister is another U-turn. PTI’s actions and decisions are based on lies and U-turns. You (Imran Khan) have greatly damaged the country through your politics of U-turns, haste, and instigation. It was not an easy job to be in power and solve issues faced by the public. You do everything in haste which only results in PTI’s loss.”

Pakistan Peoples Party secretary general and former Senate chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said Imran Khan and the PTI had become a laughing stock after withdrawing the names for caretaker chief ministers for KP and Punjab. He asked the PTI chief to tell the nation what price Mahmoodur Rasheed and Pervez Khattak had received for nominating the chief ministers of their respective provinces. “The role of PTI has been fully exposed, which proves the party is politically immature and cannot be trusted with government anywhere in Pakistan” he said.

Mr Bukhari said U-turn was a manifestation of the inability of Imran Khan to take serious decisions of national importance. “How the nation can hand over the reins of government to a person who lacks political acumen and cannot take vital decision for the country,” he asked.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2018