Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) nominee Professor Hasan Askari was on Thursday named by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as Punjab's caretaker chief minister.
ECP Additional Secretary Akhtar Nazir made the announcement at a press conference in Islamabad.
"All respected members took part in the meeting and unanimously decided that Punjab's caretaker CM would be Professor Hasan Askari Rizvi," Nazir said.
The process of selection of caretaker chief minister of Punjab had been referred to the ECP after a parliamentary committee in Lahore failed to reach consensus.
The PML-N had floated the names of two candidates — retired Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah and retired Justice Sair Ali — and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) proposed Dr Hasan Askari and Ayaz Amir as possible names for the post of Punjab caretaker CM.
PTI's Mehmoodur Rasheed claimed that during the parliamentary committee meeting, the PML-N team had expressed reservations on the candidature of Ayaz Amir while the PTI raised objections over the candidature of Zakaullah.
The PTI leader said that they had insisted that the committee should reach a consensus on Dr Askari as he was a non-controversial personality.
The PML-N, it is learnt, had asserted that it was PTI’s turn to accept one of the candidates pitched by the former.
"The deadlock reached a level that the committee was not even able to shortlist one candidate each supported by the two parties," Rasheed said.
Sources said the decision had become a sticky issue after the PTI backtracked on the earlier selection of Nasir Mahmood Khosa for the post of Punjab caretaker chief minister finalised by former opposition leader Mahmoodur Rasheed and outgoing Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
PML-N expresses reservations on Askari's appointment
Senior PML-N leaders including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, ex-railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah held a press conference to express reservations about Askari's appointment as the caretaker Punjab chief minister.
Askari's appointment has made the election in Punjab controversial, said Abbasi, adding that the ECP should not have picked a "partisan" person for the position of caretaker chief minister.
Rejecting Askari's appointment for the position, Abbasi said Askari was not impartial and had been criticising the PML-N in TV shows and writing articles in newspapers against his party. Aksari is also in favour of a delay in the elections, the former prime minister alleged.
Iqbal while addressing the presser said if the election is made controversial, a political crisis will emerge after the poll that will be "poisonous" for the country. He said he is calling on the people of Pakistan to "protect the vote" after the ECP verdict.
Earlier, Sanaullah had expressed reservations over Askari's appointment, saying it was unfortunate that an individual who had "never even run a school" would now be in charge of running a province.
He alleged that Askari does not believe in democracy and has "always criticised" the PML-N and its leadership.
"He cannot be expected to work impartially and on the basis of merit," the PML-N leader alleged.
"We have expressed our reservations in writing over his appointment," he said, adding that the party could challenge Askari's actions.
The PPP also expressed concern over Askari being named the caretaker chief minister. According to DawnNewsTV, PPP Lahore chapter president Azizur Rehman Chan said his party had reservations over Askari's appointment as the PML-N and PTI had not consulted the PPP during the entire process of nominating the caretaker chief minister.
'No political party should be troubled'
Prof Askari, responding to the criticism, promised that he would not misuse his new position and vowed to hold fair and transparent elections.
"The ECP has appointed me caretaker CM in line with the Constitution... No party should be troubled," he added.
"The PML-N are expressing their reservations, that is their right. They can say whatever they like about me," he said.
"If they wish to challenge my appointment, they can. It makes no difference to me," he said, adding: "I will complete my constitutional responsibilities."
ECP rejects criticism
The ECP in a press release rejected the criticism by the PML-N over Askari's appointment.
According to the statement, the commission was sent four names for the post of the caretaker chief minister under Article 224 of the Constitution.
"The ECP unanimously approved Prof Hasan Askari's name for the caretaker chief minister under the Constitution and law," it said.
Who is Prof Hasan Askari?
Prof Hasan Askari is a political scientist and analyst with experience working in international think tanks, universities and both local and foreign media. He is recognised for his work in comparative politics, nuclear weapons, and country's domestic policy.
He has become a known face on television due to his role as a political commentator on current affairs on both private and state-owned TV channels.
He has a number of publications to his name ─ including more than 1,800 op-eds and comment pieces in domestic and international newspapers and magazines ─ and has spent over 35 years teaching and supervising research at the post-graduate level.
He has taught Master's-level courses at Pakistani, German, and American universities on South Asian affairs, comparative politics, international relations, Pakistan's domestic and foreign policy, civil-military relations, the Middle East and the Gulf region.
He was awarded a Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 2010.
Prof Askari received a Bachelor's in Political Science and English Literature in 1968 from Punjab University, an MA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979, and a PhD in Political Science from UPenn a year later.
He has also received an MPhil on the basis of a published thesis on South Asia and comparative government.