LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan has summoned the maiden meeting of the parliamentary committee for appointment of a caretaker chief minister here on Friday, as outgoing Chief Minister Parvez Elahi threatened to move the Supreme Court if the selection is made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

A notification issued by the assembly secretariat on Thursday says the six-member committee will meet at 3pm at the assembly chambers.

The parliamentary panel formed under Article 224A of the Constitution comprises six lawmakers having equal representation both from the treasury and the opposition.

Former minister Raja Basharat, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Hashim Jawan Bakht will represent the ruling alliance of PTI-Q League, while the opposition will be represented by PM’s special assistant Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, PPP’s parliamentary leader Syed Hassan Murtaza and Malik Nadeem Kamran.

It will deliberate on the nominations made both by Mr Elahi and opposition leader in the outgoing assembly Hamza Shehbaz as caretaker CM and try to develop a consensus on one of the nominees.

Under the law, it will have to take a decision within three days after the matter is referred to it. In case of its failure to reach a consensus candidate, the issue will go to the ECP, which will have two days to settle it.

PA speaker summons parliamentary committee; controversy over change of nominee by Elahi

Mr Elahi had suggested three names (though Article 224A allows only two nominations) for the slot: ex-chief secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa, serving bureaucrat (cabinet division secretary) Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera and Naseer Khan, reportedly a relative of the outgoing chief minister. Mr Shehbaz had nominated Ahad Cheema, a former bureaucrat and Special Assistant to PM, and Mohsin Naqvi, owner of a media house.

The notification issued by the speaker for the summoning of the committee’s meeting however stirred a controversy as it reduced the nominations from three to two, with the second one a new entry.

In fact, there were two notifications — the first shared with the media at around 3pm said the committee will meet at 2pm, while it excluded nominations by either side. The second one released to the media at 6.50pm said Mr Elahi had nominated Mr Sukhera and Naveed Akram Cheema, a former chief secretary, as the caretaker CM. The opposition PML-N has objected to the change of nominees. Malik Ahmad Khan, who is also part of the committee, says the nominations given and deliberated upon by the outgoing chief minister and opposition leader could not be changed while referring the matter to the committee.

The nominations were changed after re-thinking by the PTI’s parliamentary party following Mr Khosa’s refusal to become a part of the caretaker setup.

“We will not accept this violation of the law,” the PM’s special assistant said in a hint that the controversy would disable the parliamentary body to reach a consensus on the caretaker chief minister and the matter will be referred to the Election Commission.

However, Mr Elahi threatened that they would not accept the caretaker chief minister to be chosen by the ECP.

“We won’t allow the caretaker chief minister selected by the Election Commission to function,” he told the media, while inaugurating the Holy Quran portal here on Thursday.

“We know the intention of the Election Commission, which is instituting cases against [PTI chairman] Imran Khan on a daily basis, and shall move the Supreme Court against its decision.”

He argued that the nominations he had made included pro-PML-N persons as one of them (Mr Sukhera) is Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet secretary, while Nasir Khosa had served as Punjab chief secretary when Mr Sharif was the chief minister.

Imran meets parliamentary party

Separately, during a meeting of the PTI parliamentary party committee members at Zaman Park, the party chairman said that his party would not tolerate delay in general elections at any cost. He added that it would be foolish to allow the “[PDM] group afraid to face the public to do more wrongs and ruin the country’s economy”.

The committee which called on Imran Khan at his residence in Lahore has been tasked to negotiate with the PML-N parliamentary committee to reach a consensus on a candidate for the post of caretaker chief minister in Punjab.

Mr Khan said a caretaker setup consisting of “well-reputed and able people” can perform the important task of holding elections in a transparent manner. The PTI chairman said his party had nominated personalities known for “impeccable credentials”.

He said holding free, fair and credible elections was the most serious matter and only the caretaker government having the “best reputation and capacity” could perform this responsibility. “Jeopardising transparency of the elections will be tantamount to enmity with the country,” he claimed.

He said the constitutional requirement to establish caretaker governments should be fulfilled seriously so the people could be given the right to make decisions through elections without any further delay.

The meeting also had a re-think on the party’s three nominees for the interim CM – Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, former federal health minister Naseer Khan, and former Punjab Chief Secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa – to finalise nominees to be recommended to the Punjab Assembly speaker.

Since Mr Khosa had refused to be an aspirant for the caretaker chief minister slot, the PTI decided to replace him with another former Punjab chief secretary, Naveed Akram Cheema. Later, Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi forwarded the names to the speaker. The PTI and PML-N parliamentary committees are scheduled to meet at Punjab Assembly today to build consensus on the caretaker CM nominee.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2023

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