Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi was sworn in as the caretaker chief minister of Punjab on Sunday night, hours after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) unanimously decided to appoint him to the post.
Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman administered the oath to Naqvi at a ceremony held at the Governor House in Lahore.
Naqvi, who was one of the two candidates suggested by Hamza Shehbaz, is the owner of a media house and said to be very close to PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari.
The decision to appoint Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister was taken during a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja.
In a press release issued earlier, the ECP said that a notification regarding the appointment had been issued while a separate letter had been dispatched to the governor for administering the oath to Naqvi.
The subsequent notification issued by the electoral watchdog, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said: “Pursuant to the proviso of Clause(3) of Article 224-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and as a result of detailed deliberations made on January 22, the ECP has unanimously decided to appoint Syed Mohsin Rana Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister, Punjab with immediate effect.”
The appointment of the caretaker CM faced an unusual delay after the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly last week due to constant back-and-forth between the provincial government and the opposition on the nominees.
Outgoing Chief Minister Parvez Elahi had proposed the names of Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera and Naveed Akram Cheema while Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz had endorsed the names of Naqvi and Ahad Cheema for the caretaker slot.
The matter was referred to the electoral watchdog after a bi-partisan parliamentary committee failed to reach a consensus on the matter within the stipulated time.
The election watchdog was bound to decide the matter on Sunday as the two-day time given to the commission under Article 224-A of the Constitution was set to expire.
PTI rejects ECP’s decision
Reacting to Naqvi’s appointment, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said the PML-N had a “history of selecting their own umpires but it’s incredible how the ECP has selected a sworn enemy of PTI as the caretaker chief minister — a post meant for a non-partisan person”.
He noted that Naqvi had previously made a “voluntary return deal” with the National Accountability Bureau. He further said that the apex court had previously held that “in a case of voluntary return, a person cannot hold any public office at [a] federal or provincial level nor in any state organisation”.
Imran stated that the election commission had “helped reduce Pakistan into a banana republic, making our democracy a joke”. He further said he would hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday) to “expose this entire farce”.
PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry said that the commission “never failed to disappoint”.
“We reject the decision to appoint a controversial person such as Mohsin Naqvi as the chief minister,” he said, adding that there was no other option apart from protesting in the streets.
He called on party workers to prepare, saying that a large campaign would be launched under the leadership of party chief Imran Khan.
In a separate video message, Fawad reiterated that the PTI had rejected Naqvi’s appointment, adding that the party would approach the courts.
He said that the ECP never failed to disappoint the public, terming the commission to be a subsidiary of the PML-N and the PPP. He alleged that Naqvi had been tasked with delaying the elections in Punjab and to sabotage the PTI.
“The public has lost hope in the country’s institutions,” Fawad said. “They will have to come out onto the streets under the leadership of Imran Khan and reject decisions taken in closed rooms.”
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said appointing Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister was akin to making a mockery of the Constitution. He said that the PTI would challenge the decision and protest against it.
Elahi, the outgoing chief minister, questioned how one could expect justice from someone who struck a plea bargain in the Haris Steel case.
“How can my close relative become the caretaker chief minister?” he questioned, terming the ECP’s “controversial” decision to be in violation of the rules. “We will approach the Supreme Court against the ECP’s decision.”
It is pertinent to mention that Elahi had already stated he would approach a court of law if any “controversial person” was picked by the commission from the list of nominees.
PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood called the decision to appoint Naqvi the provincial chief executive “a mockery”, saying he was the “one man considered most unsuitable for this position”.
“This amounts to virtually handing over power to PML-N and PPP to conduct elections in Punjab. So much for free and fair elections,” he said.
Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the ECP had “hammered the last nail in the coffin of its destruction” as well as put on a question mark on the upcoming provincial elections.
He warned that an electoral exercise where one’s favoured nominees were being picked would not end well. He called for holding free and fair elections in the country, saying that the people would not accept the caretaker CM.