‘Neutral man’ to be picked as caretaker PM: minister

Published August 7, 2023
In this December 2022 file photo, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — APP
In this December 2022 file photo, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — APP

• Sanaullah says Hafeez Shaikh, former SC judge among probables
• Says no problem if polls delayed to February or March

ISLAMABAD: As consultations between the ruling allies on the issue of caretaker set-up continue, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Sunday revealed that an apolitical person or a technocrat could be made the interim prime minister.

The minister also hinted that the names of former finance minister Hafeez Shaikh and a former Supreme Court judge had been shortlisted, while Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi were not in the run.

“Names of former finance minister Hafeez Sheikh and a retired judge of the Supreme Court are among the probables who have been shortlisted,” Mr Sanaullah said on a Geo News programme.

“Now a neutral man will become the caretaker prime minister, who will have no political affiliation,” he added.

Ruling out the possibility of Mr Dar becoming an interim premier, Mr Sanaullah said: “When the name of Ishaq Dar was circulating in the media, it was decided at that time that an apolitical person would be chosen as the caretaker prime minister.”

However, the interior minister said that if any decision was made to allow any political person to be picked for the slot, then the names of Mr Dar, Mr Abbasi and Raza Rabbani could be considered.

Asked whether Hafeez Shaikh was ready to take this responsibility, Mr Sanaullah said: “Definitely, he must be.”

Mr Sanaullah said the name of a retired SC judge was also among the candidates.

It may be mentioned that the name of former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jilani has been circulating in the media among those being considered as caretaker prime minister.

Some other probables circulating in the media include Fawad Hassan Fawad, former principal secretary to the prime minister; Abdullah Hussain Haroon, former permanent representative to the United Nations; Pir of Pagaro VII, Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi; and former Punjab governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood of PPP.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has already announced that he would dissolve the National Assembly on Aug 9 (Wednesday), three days before the expiry of the government’s term. The decision has been endorsed by all coalition parties and therefore, according to the Constitution, the next general elections should be held in 90 days.

Mr Sanaullah said the name of the person to take charge as caretaker premier would come to the fore by Tuesday (tomorrow).

A source said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif would finalise three names, which would be shared with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz. One of those names then would be chosen by PM Shehbaz with Mr Riaz’s consent.

On the approval of the latest census results on Friday that could potentially delay polls, Mr Sanaullah said it was the demand of all political parties and provinces that coming general elections should be held according to the new census.

Asked whether elections, slated to be held in November, could be delayed as constituencies would now have to be redrawn under the new census, Mr Sanaullah said: “Yes, they will be delayed by 120 days and there will be no harm if the date is extended for a month or two. There is no problem if polls are held in February-March next year.”

Meanwhile, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari has been staying at his Islamabad residence and keenly observing political developments.

PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi had earlier told Dawn that the party had already given three names to the prime minister for the caretaker slot.

It is expected that Mr Zardari will meet leaders of other allied parties in the ruling coalition on Monday (today) and Tuesday to finalise names for the caretaker prime minister and other members of the interim cabinet.

President to stay

Meanwhile, although the five-year term of President Arif Alvi is set to end next month, he will retain his position until the election of his successor.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told Dawn that according to the Constitution, the president would retain his seat until the new one was elected.

However, in case President Alvi resigns, the Senate chairman would take his place. And if the Senate chairman was also unavailable, the National Assembly speaker would take this slot, the law minister said.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2023

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