• ECP finalised PML-N’s nominee just an hour before expiry of constitutional deadline
• Zardari believes chief minister will prove critics wrong with his performance
ISLAMABAD: Just a couple of hours after being appointed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a 90-day interim period, caretaker Punjab chief minister Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi took the oath of office late on Sunday evening.
Punjab Governor Baligh-ur-Rehman administered the oath to Mr Naqvi, a senior journalist and owner of some private TV channels, at the Governor House, after the ECP picked his name from among the four nominees of the PTI and PML-N, which had failed to agree on any of them.
While the PTI, which was ruling the province before the Punjab Assembly’s dissolution on Jan 12, vehemently rejected the appointment, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari hailed the move and said the caretaker CM would prove his critics wrong through his actions and hard work.
The ECP made the decision after two-hour deliberations on all four names at its meeting, which was presided over by its chairman Sikandar Sultan Raja. The meeting, which lasted till 9pm, considered different aspects while vetting their candidature to determine who can run the provincial government best till the assembly elections.
A two-day time frame the ECP had under Article 224-A of the Constitution was set to expire at 10pm on Sunday. The commission could not meet a day earlier as it officially received the names of four nominees on Saturday. Former CM Parvez Elahi had proposed the names of Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera and Naveed Akram Cheema while former opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz had endorsed the names of Mr Naqvi and Ahad Cheema for the top slot in the caretaker set-up.
A notification issued by the ECP regarding the appointment stated: “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 22nd January, 2023, the Election Commission of Pakistan has unanimously decided to appoint Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi as caretaker chief minister, Punjab with immediate effect.”
While the PTI and its ally PML-Q had already warned that they would challenge the ECP decision in the Supreme Court if any nominee of the opposition was appointed as caretaker CM by the ECP, a senior official told Dawn the ECP had played its role exactly according to the Constitution.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (Pildat) President, said in a TV show there was no provision in the Constitution to challenge the ECP decision regarding caretaker CM’s appointment, but it could happen and the court could reinterpret the relevant article if deemed appropriate.
Earlier as a tactic to compel the PML-N government in the centre to hold early elections in the country, ex-CM Elahi on the desire of PTI chief Imran Khan had dissolved the Punjab Assembly soon after winning a vote of confidence on Jan 12.
According to the Constitution, once the assembly is dissolved or it completes its term, both leader of the house and leader of the opposition have to choose one name from their probable and if they fail to do so, the matter lands at the ECP for selecting any of the candidates from the two sides.
The appointment, however, faced an unusual delay after the assembly dissolution due to disagreement between the Elahi government and Hamza Shehbaz-led opposition on the nominees, with the result that the matter landed at the ECP as per Constitution.
While the PTI chief and ex-CM Elahi had already announced that they would not accept any of the opposition’s candidates if finalised by the ECP, former president Asif Zardari said Mr Naqvi was capable enough to discharge his duties with utmost responsibility and care. “He [Naqvi] will shut mouths of his critics with his performance,” the PPP leader said.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2023
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