Shehbaz, Raja Riaz hold first meeting for deliberations on caretaker premier

Published August 10, 2023
Outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Opposition Leader Raja Riaz hold their first meeting on August 10 to decide on the caretaker PM. — Photo courtesy PID
Outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Opposition Leader Raja Riaz hold their first meeting on August 10 to decide on the caretaker PM. — Photo courtesy PID
Outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Opposition Leader Raja Riaz hold their first meeting on August 10 to decide on the caretaker PM. — Photo courtesy PID
Outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Opposition Leader Raja Riaz hold their first meeting on August 10 to decide on the caretaker PM. — Photo courtesy PID

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met outgoing Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (NA) Raja Riaz on Thursday in what was their first meeting to reach a consensus on the name for the caretaker premier, according to Radio Pakistan.

Confirming the anticipated meeting, Riaz said: “With a consensus, we have decided that there will be another meeting tomorrow (Friday).”

The sun set on the coalition government’s regime on Wednesday after President Alvi dissolved the lower house of the Parliament, three days before the completion of its five-year tenure, shortly after a summary signed by PM Shehbaz, advising the same, was sent to the Presidency.

After the approval of the summary, the federal cabinet also stands dissolved.

On Thursday morning, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs issued a notification saying the president had dissolved the NA “with immediate effect”.

The outgoing government has so far failed to name 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.

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.”

Talking to reporters outside the Prime Minister’s House today, Riaz said the hour-long meeting with PM Shehbaz was held in a cordial and conducive environment.

“I will deliberate on the names given by the PM, and similarly, the PM sahib will go through the names given by me … a meeting will be held again tomorrow (Friday),” he said.

While refusing to reveal any of the candidates under consideration for the caretaker PM’s slot, Riaz said six names came under discussion during today’s meeting and all of them were “respectable people”.

“We will hold further deliberations tomorrow and hope that things will become pretty clear after that,” he added.

The premier and the outgoing opposition leader in the NA have three days to decide the name of the interim prime minister.

In case the two fail to agree on a name, the matter would be referred to a parliamentary committee. If the committee fails 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.

ECP bars postings, transfers

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has imposed a restriction on postings and transfers until the appointment of the caretaker set-up.

In a notification released today, the electoral watchdog noted that there were indications of significant transfers and postings being “planned” across various divisions, ministries, departments, and institutions.

“It is, therefore, desirable and advised that till the institution of caretaker government at the federal level, postings and transfers may be avoided,” the ECP emphasised.

The notification stated that once the caretaker government assumes office, transfers and postings can then be carried out in compliance with the legal framework.

Shehbaz invites Riaz for consultations

Earlier today, the premier wrote a letter to Riaz inviting him for a meeting over consultations on the caretaker prime minister, according to Radio Pakistan.

In his letter, PM Shehbaz said the president had dissolved the NA under Article 58(1) of the Constitution, adding that he was ready to fulfil his constitutional responsibility regarding the appointment of the interim PM.

Earlier, the premier had denied the finalisation of any candidates for the post, adding that 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.

On the other hand, Riaz had told reporters earlier this week 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 had revealed.

‘New entrant’

Meanwhile, a Dawn report said 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. 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.

Before 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.

But PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said on Dawn News show ‘Live with Adil Shahzeb’ today that two other leaders from his party, Ishaq Dar and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, were not being considered for the post.

He also refuted reports that the selection was being deliberately and that Nawaz was insisting that the interim premier be selected from among Dar and Abbasi — the two names that are said to have been proposed by the PML-N supremo.

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