• Imran to propose potential names for caretaker to outgoing CM today
• Governor writes to Elahi, Hamza to propose nominees for interim CM by 17th

LAHORE: As the Punjab Assembly automatically stood dissolved late on Saturday evening, following the governor’s refusal to sign the chief minister’s advice, the PTI concluded a series of hectic meetings deliberating its political strategy and finalising candidates for the slot of caretaker CM, to be appointed in consultation with the outgoing assembly’s opposition leader.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan, in a meeting with senior party leaders, is said to have finalised the candidates to be proposed for the caretaker CM. However, at the eleventh hour, the party decided to hold onto the names for another day as Mr Khan is scheduled to present them to outgoing CM Parvez Elahi in a formal meeting at his residence on Sunday (today).

CM Elahi and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz are now required to consult and mutually decide a candidate to propose for appointment as the caretaker CM within the next three days.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Khan and Mr Elahi held separate consultative meetings with their party leaders and cabinet members, respectively, to discuss a political strategy for the installation of a caretaker set-up in Punjab and the subsequent elections. Sharing the governor’s direction for finalising a candidate for the slot of caretaker, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi tweeted, “Election time!!!”

Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan had earlier claimed the PTI had finalised three names to be suggested for the caretaker chief minister’s post. Those names would be shared soon after the dissolution of the assembly later at night.

In the meeting with senior party leaders at his residence, PTI chief Imran Khan deliberated and reportedly finalised the candidates for the interim chief’s slot.

“Since the PML-Q extended all-out support to the PTI during the past five months, party chief Imran Khan decided to present the candidates’ names to his ally, Chief Minister Elahi, in a formal meeting on Sunday (today),” a PTI leader told Dawn.

For the caretaker set-up, both the PTI-PML-Q alliance and the opposition PML-N will have to float two names each after formal consultations. “If both sides do not reach a consensus on the subject, the matter will go to the Election Commission of Pakistan that will make the appointment,” the PA speaker told the media.

In a separate meeting with the speaker, provincial ministers and advisers, CM Elahi discussed the legal and constitutional aspects of the post-PA dissolution scenario. The meeting deliberated on various names for the CM’s candidate.

“I have fulfilled the promise made with PTI Chairman Imran Khan. It is our family tradition that we always stand by our commitments,” he asserted, adding he and his party would continue supporting Imran Khan and the PTI in the future as well.

Sources say the PTI chief also hinted at formally asking Mr Elahi to merge the PML-Q into the PTI to go ahead in politics together.

The former prime minister also discussed the dissolution of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly as well as the interim set-up and elections. He also consulted his party leaders and decided to give a tough time to the federal government and approved the initiation of the process to ask Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take a vote of confidence from the National Assembly.

He also directed his party leaders to begin the process for finalising candidates for awarding party tickets for the elections. He asked the divisional-level party organisations in the province to recommend strong candidates to the parliamentary board.

“The finalised candidates will be given tickets to go ahead and launch hectic and effective election campaigns.”

Meanwhile, after the PTI served a show-cause notice to its MPA Momina Waheed, the party’s student wing staged a demonstration outside her residence for not adhering to the party policy at the time of the vote of confidence for the Punjab chief minister a few days ago.

Caretaker CM’s appointment

After the formal dissolution of the assembly on Saturday night, the Punjab governor initiated the process for appointment of a caretaker chief minister.

Governor Balighur Rehman wrote to CM Elahi and Opposition Leader in the PA Hamza Shehbaz, saying: “The provincial assembly of Punjab and cabinet stand dissolved under Article 112(1) of the Constitution on Jan 14. The caretaker chief minister shall be appointed by the undersigned in consultation with the outgoing chief minister and the leader of the opposition in the outgoing provincial assembly as per Article 224(1A) of the Constitution.”

He also invited both sides to participate in the process of appointment of an interim CM and provide names of their nominees for the purpose within three days (by Jan 17). He also offered to meet with Mr Elahi and Mr Shehbaz on the matter, if both leaders wished.

Hamza has been out of the country for over a month and his party is still not sure when he will return. “If Hamza does not return from the US, he may become a part of the consultation on the appointment process from abroad,” a PML-N leader told Dawn.

Zulqernain Tahir also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2023

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