LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have expressed their concern over the appointment of political analyst Dr Hasan Askari (suggested by the PTI) as caretaker Punjab chief minister, whereas the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) are content with the posting and demand that everyone move on to the next stage of elections.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other PML-N leaders rejected Dr Askari for being “biased against the ex-ruling party.” The N League demanded that the ECP review its decision.

ANP leader Zahid Khan challenged the selection by sarcastically saying that the Election Commission had better posted PTI Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry to the office.

The Election Commission, in a statement, rejected the objections saying it just fulfilled a constitutional requirement by unanimously selecting one of the four members on the panel suggested by the politicians for the purpose.

“A thorough consultation was conducted on all the nominees from all constitutional and legal points of view and then Dr Askari was chosen unanimously as the Punjab caretaker chief minister,” ECP spokesperson Altaf Khan said.

Both the PPP and MMA argue that as Dr Askari has been chosen through a constitutional process, there’s need to accept the posting by rising above personal likes and dislikes.

Punjab PPP General Secretary Chaudhry Manzoor says the caretakers have only a limited role to play in the election process. Holding a free and fair electoral exercise is the responsibility of the Election Commission which has been granted financial and administrative autonomy as per its demands, he says.

He says if the PML-N had any reservations about Dr Askari it should have discussed and resolved the issue during the parliamentary committee meeting.

MMA Secretary-General Liaquat Baloch also chides the PML-N for raising the issue after it stands settled. He says the outgoing Punjab government had two chances – first during consultations between the chief minister and opposition leader and second during meetings of the parliamentary committee – to come up with a consensus caretaker CM and/or bring on record the objection(s) to nominee(s). But, when it missed the opportunities and let the ball thrown in the court of Election Commission, it has no right to protest. Dr Askari, however, promises to remain neutral and take the challenge of ensuring a free and fair election.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2018

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