Alauddin Marri
Alauddin Marri

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday named Professor Dr Hasan Askari and Alauddin Marri as caretaker chief ministers of Punjab and Balochistan, respectively.

Earlier, former chief ministers and opposition leaders of Punjab and Balochistan had failed to reach consensus on selection of caretaker chief ministers of their provinces. The parliamentary committees in both the provinces could also not make headway and the matter was referred to the commission under the law.

According to the ECP, the previous government had suggested the names of retired Justice Sair Ali and retired Admiral Muham­mad Zakaullah for the post of caretaker chief minister of Punjab while the opposition had proposed the names of Ayaz Amir and Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi.

The name of Dr Hassan Askari was proposed by the opposition after their withdrawal of the name of Nasir Mahmood Khosa.

ECP names Hasan Askari, Alauddin Marri as caretaker chief ministers of Punjab, Balochistan

The previous Balochistan government had proposed the names of Alauddin Marri and Sardar Shaukat Popalzai as interim chief minister of the province, while the names of Mohammad Aslam Bhutani and Ashraf Jahangir Qazi were recommended by former opposition leader in the Balochistan assembly.

The ECP announcement of naming Dr Askari as caretaker chief minister of Punjab sparked a war of words between the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The PML-N instantly rejected the ECP decision to name PTI nominee Dr Askari and called upon the commission to review its decision. It also asked Dr Askari to refuse to assume the office since “he has become controversial for being partial”.

“The PML-N parliamentary committee had provided the record related to the impartiality of Hasan Askari and Ayaz Amir (both nominees of the PTI) to the ECP but it ignored it and named Dr Askari as caretaker chief minister. The whole election process will be doubtful under him,” former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said.

Talking to reporters in Lahore, Mr Abbasi said an impartial caretaker setup should hold elections in Punjab. “No one can raise finger at impartiality of retired Justice Sair Ali and retired Admiral Zakaullah who had been proposed by the PML-N for the post of caretaker chief minister. Mr Askari had already expressed his views about delay in elections which he thinks is not an issue. His impartiality and views against PML-N leadership are known to everyone. In the presence of Mr Askari as caretaker chief minister, elections on July 25 will not be fair and transparent,” Mr Abbasi said.

Asked what would be PML-N strategy if the ECP did not review its decision, the former prime minister said: “We will go for the options available to us.” He however made it clear that the PML-N would fully participate in the elections whether it was conducted by “aliens or else”.

Acting secretary general of the PML-N Ahsan Iqbal said there would be a “political conflict” if the elections were not fair. “In case of delay in the elections the country will suffer a lot economically,” he added.

Dr Hasan Askari
Dr Hasan Askari

Former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique said: “Since Mr Askari is favourite of the PTI, I ask him to refuse to assume the office of caretaker chief minister as he has become controversial.” PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif voiced similar concerns and rejected Dr Askari’s nomination by the ECP.

Talking to reporters, Dr Askari brushed aside the reservations of the PML-N, saying, “I will hold the elections in transparent manner. I have neither inclination to any political party nor any political agenda. My utmost effort will be to hold the elections at whose transparency nobody can raise finger.”

Dr Askari said he would try to have a ‘small cabinet’ comprising professional persons.

On the other hand, the ECP has rejected the PML-N’s concerns on Mr Askari’s nomination, saying his name had been finalised unanimously by all its members. “The commission has played its constitutional role in this regard,” ECP spokesman Altaf Ahmad Khan said.

He rejected the objection raised by Mr Abbasi and said the ECP had received four names under Article 224 of the Constitution and decided to appoint Dr Askari as caretaker chief minister of Punjab with consensus after deliberations, insisting that the decision was in accordance with the law and the constitution.

The PTI has welcomed the decision saying the PML-N’s objection was uncalled for. “The PML-N’s prime concern is this it will not be able to manoeuvre elections in Punjab like it did in 2013 through the caretaker chief minister,” PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan said.

PTI information secretary Fawad Chaudhry lambasted Mr Abbasi for objecting to the nomination of Dr Askari as caretaker chief minister of Punjab and said the PML-N had a problem with independent individuals be it Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar or Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

He hoped that Dr Askari would be able to deal with the issue of deep rooted influence of the PML-N in the district management.

He said there was no justification for the objection as the process provided under the law had been followed.

Dr Hassan Askari is an academician, political scientist and military analyst. He is known for his work in comparative politics and on nuclear weapons and Pakistan’s domestic policy. Dr Askari is currently serving as professor emeritus of Political Science at his alma mater, University of the Punjab.

He also served as a visiting professor of Pakistan Studies at Columbia University from January 1996 to July 1999. During 1988 to 1991, he worked as the Allama Iqbal Professor at Heidelberg University of Germany. In 2010, he was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz.

Dr Askari has also authored a number of books, including “Military, State and Society in Pakistan” and “Pakistan and the Geo-Strategic Environment”.

Nomination papers

Meanwhile, the ECP has announced that the date for filing nomination papers has been extended till June 11. The date has been changed for the third time after announcement of the election schedule. Initially June 2 to 4 were fixed as the dates for filing of nomination papers, but the schedule was partially amended following a controversy arising out a decision of the Lahore High Court seeking changes in nomination forms. Then June 6-8 were set as the new dates after the apex court suspended the high court’s verdict. Now the last date for filing nomination papers has been extended till June 11 – also the last date for filing affidavits containing the information missing out of nomination forms.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2018