President Arif Alvi approved the summary for dissolving the National Assembly (NA) at midnight on Wednesday at outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice, marking an end to the current government’s tenure.

The notification for the dissolution of the assembly was issued by the Aiwan-i-Sadr, which said the NA was dissolved under Article 58 of the Constitution.

According to Article 58, if the president fails to dissolve the assembly within 48 hours after the PM has recommended so, the assembly automatically stands dissolved.

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz and Leader of the Opposition in NA now have three days as per the Constitution to finalise a name for the caretaker prime minister. But if they fail to agree on a name, the matter would be referred to a committee formed by the NA speaker that is supposed to finalise a name for the interim PM within 3 days.

However, if the committee is unable to make a decision within the stipulated period, the names of the nominees are forwarded to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The commission then has two days to make the final decision.

Before the dissolution

The NA dissolution comes around a week after the government announced that assemblies would be dissolved on August 9, three days ahead of its mandated period, following which elections are to be held within 90 days.

Earlier today, PM Shehbaz said during his farewell addresses in the NA that “tonight, with the permission of the House, I will send the advice for the dissolution of the National Assembly to the president.”

Later, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi said in a statement that “the elected government has completed its five-year term”, and his ministry had forwarded the summary for the dissolution of the assembly to the PM under Article 58 of the Constitution.

The constitution of an interim government under Article 224 of the Constitution has been requested in the summary, the statement said, adding that a notification by the parliamentary affairs ministry would be issued after the approval of the summary and formation of the caretaker government.

Earlier today, the prime minister also chaired the final meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad, according to Radio Pakistan.

During the meeting, PM Shehbaz took his coalition partners in confidence regarding the appointment of the caretaker government. He also thanked all the cabinet members for their contribution to Pakistan’s growth during the outgoing government’s 16-month tenure.

Caretaker set-up

During the NA session today, PM Shehbaz also said he would meet opposition leader Raja Riaz to fulfil his constitutional obligation i.e. consultations regarding the appointment of an interim premier tomorrow (Thursday).

“I will meet Raja Riaz sahib tomorrow and shake hands with him … as the Constitution says we discuss names for the interim premier. The first meeting will be held tomorrow … the Constitution gives us three days [to decide the name of the interim PM].

“Then [the matter] will come to the house and if we fail to decide, it will go to the chief election commissioner,” he stated.

A day earlier, PM Shehbaz had denied the finalisation of any candidates for the post. “No. None till now … no name has been shortlisted,” he said during an interview on Dawn News show ‘Live with Adil Shahzeb’ when asked about the nominees.

The premier added consultations with the government’s allies and his own party members on the matter were a “continuous process” that would be completed within a day or two.

To a question about a PML-N member being appointed as the interim premier, he said parties in the ruling coalition should make a decision to ensure that the status of the interim prime minister was “generally acceptable” to the people.

Opposition finalises three names

Meanwhile, Riaz told reporters a day earlier that he hoped his meeting with the PM would take place today where these matters would be discussed. He was of the view that consultations would take place at “the right time”.

According to the opposition leader, he had completed the consultation process with his allies and three names for the interim prime minister were almost finalised.

Later, Riaz told Aaj News that the names for the caretaker PM were finalised after he held three meetings with lawmakers from the opposition. “They do not include any politicians, but an economist has been shortlisted,” he revealed.

The opposition leader said he could even consider a politician for the interim PM slot if suggested by the government. Some political observers believed that Raja Riaz is a “friendly opposition leader” so he will not oppose the name chosen by PM Shehbaz for the slot of caretaker prime minister.

Regarding potential delays in elections, Riaz said polls should ideally be held within three months but the approval of the latest census has complicated the matters. “I think the election will be delayed by six months,” he said.

It may be noted that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has already said that general elections could be delayed due to the delimitations of constituencies after the notification of the 2023 census. He expected polls could be delayed till March next year.

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