Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif poses for a group photo with cabinet ministers and other members of the ruling coalition on the last day of his government, in the assembly hall on Wednesday.—Facebook/NAofPakistan
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif poses for a group photo with cabinet ministers and other members of the ruling coalition on the last day of his government, in the assembly hall on Wednesday.—Facebook/NAofPakistan

• National Assembly stands dissolved after President Alvi signs summary
• Premier says he has ‘three days’ to evolve consensus on interim PM, due to meet NA Opp leader today
• PPP-proposed Jalil Abbas Jilani emerges as ‘strong contender’ for coveted slot
• Balochistan CM ‘in no hurry’ to send dissolution summary; Sindh Assembly remains in session

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Wednesday dissolved the National Assembly three days before the completion of its five-year tenure, shortly after a summary signed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, advising the dissolution of the lower house, was sent to the Presidency.

A statement issued by the Presidency just before midnight read, “President Arif Alvi has dissolved the National Assembly under Article 58(1) on the advice of the prime minister.” After the approval of the summary, the federal cabinet also stands dissolved.

As for the dissolution of the provincial assemblies, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo denied reports that he had sent a summary to Governor Malik Abdul Wali Kakar for dissolving the provincial assembly, which held its final sitting on Tuesday.

“I am not in a hurry to send advice for dissolving the Balochistan Assembly,” Mr Bizenjo told Dawn by phone from Islamabad late on Wednesday night. However, he said he might sign a summary on Aug 12 (Saturday).

Mr Bizenjo also insisted that no name had been finalised for the caretaker chief minister.

Meanwhile, the Sindh Assembly remains in session.

Last day

On his last day in power, the prime minister chaired a meeting of the federal cabinet, made a farewell address to parliament, and chaired two separate meetings on overseas Pakistanis and the setting up of an ‘Olympic village’ in Islamabad.

Addressing the federal cabinet, PM Shehbaz confirmed it was his government’s last day in power. The PM said the coalition government sacrificed their political capital for the sake of the country as they had a “gigantic task to save the motherland from looming default”. After the cabinet meeting, he went to the Parliament House to address the National Assembly.

During his presence there, he along with other lawmakers posed for group photographs inside the National Assembly and outside Parliament House.

On the other hand, the government failed to name the caretaker prime minister as the premier and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Raja Riaz could not meet for this purpose — a constitutional requirement. Both will meet today (Thursday) as, under the Constitution, they have three days after the dissolution of the assemblies to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister.

Who will be caretaker PM?

On the other hand, the ruling parties refrained from revealing the name of the caretaker prime minister who would spearhead the interim set-up till general elections, which are likely to be delayed after the notification of the latest census. A key meeting between the PM and National Assembly Opposition Leader Raja Riaz is expected to be held today. Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the premier said he will meet the opposition leader today to evolve a consensus on the name of the interim PM. According to the PM, they will have three days to decide on the matter after the dissolution of the assembly.

In case there was no agreement on any name, the matter would be referred to a parliamentary committee. If the committee failed to make any decision, then the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will have two days to choose the caretaker prime minister from the list of names shared with the commission.

‘New entrant’

Meanwhile, the list of candidates for the office of the caretaker prime minister continued to swell, and a new name — Jalil Abbas Jilani — came to the fore. Mr Abbas is said to be on the list of three nominees shared by the PPP with the PM.

PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi confirmed that his party presented the name of Jalil Abbas Jilani for the office. He said although the PPP wanted a politician to be appointed as the caretaker PM, the party also desired a “strong man” to be made the head of the interim set-up to ensure transparent elections.

However, till the appointment of the caretaker prime minister, PM She­hbaz will act as the caretaker prime minister. According to Article 94 of the Constitution, “The president may ask the prime minister to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office of prime minister.”

Before Mr Jilani emerged as the ‘strong contender’ for the coveted post, former finance minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh was said to be the best bet. Now, political observers believed that the former foreign secretary was the most likely candidate.

Other candidates who are in the run for the coveted slot include Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad, ex-chief justice Tassaduq Jilani, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pir Pagaro, and Makhdoom Mehmood Ahmed.

Soon after the National Assembly’s late-night dissolution, troops were seen at different points in Islamabad. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the soldiers’ presence was because of security reasons or VIP movement.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2023

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