Premier, opposition leader keep ‘interim card’ close to chest

Published August 11, 2023
Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz (left) calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on Thursday. — Photo courtesy PID
Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz (left) calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on Thursday. — Photo courtesy PID
Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz (left) calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on Thursday. — Photo courtesy PID
Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz (left) calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on Thursday. — Photo courtesy PID

• Senate Chairman Sanjrani latest to be named among ‘strong contenders’ for caretaker PM slot
• ‘Imported’ person won’t head interim set-up, says Raja Riaz

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and National Assembly Opposition Leader Raja Riaz appeared in no hurry to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister, with an insider claiming the decision on the name for the interim premier would likely be made by Saturday.

A day after the premature dissolution of the National Assembly, PM Shehbaz met Raja Riaz to exchange a list of probable candidates for the coveted slot as formal consultations on the matter kicked off. The meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s House, said a statement. It was followed by a media talk by Mr Riaz at Parliament House wherein he asserted that they were in no hurry to decide the name for the caretaker PM.

Some in political circles believe that PM Shehbaz wants to stay in office till Aug 14 so he could attend the flag-hoisting ceremony on Independence Day, after which a caretaker PM will take an oath. Interestingly, on July 12, the prime minister had first said that his government’s tenure would end on August 14, although the information minister later clarified that the PM had gotten the date wrong.

As per the Constitution, PM Shehbaz can act as the caretaker prime minister till the appointment of the head of the interim set-up. Article 94 of the Constitution says, “The president may ask the prime minister to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office of prime minister.”

One of the reasons for delay in deciding the name of the head of interim set-up is believed to be the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s desire to see its own man in office. Sources said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari were calling the shots on the issue of the appointment of the caretaker PM in consultation with the “third party”.

More names

As both sides held the names of nominees close to their chest, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani also emerged as “one of the strongest contenders” for the coveted slot. He held separate meetings with PM Shehbaz and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

A senior leader of the PML-N told Dawn that Mr Sanjrani was “one of the strongest candidates”. “The Senate chairman can be the dark horse,” he said while referring to Defence Minister Khawaja Asif who had first used the term “dark horse”.

Other possible contenders are Jilal Abbas Jilani, former finance ministers Dr Hafeez Sheikh and Ishaq Dar, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad, ex-justice Tassaduq Jilani, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pir Pagaro, and Makhdoom Mehmood Ahmed.

Caretaker PM won’t be ‘imported’

Leader of the opposition Raja Riaz said no “imported” person will be made the head of the interim set-up. “We will not disclose the name of the caretaker PM before time,” he added. A source in the PMO told Dawn that the PM and the opposition leader have two more days to decide the name of the caretaker PM.

The insider added it will be announced by Saturday (Aug 12). “They cannot go beyond three days’ time; otherwise, the matter will automatically refer to the parliamentary committee,” he added.

It is also believed that the prime minister will announce the name of the caretaker premier on Aug 12, but the oath-taking ceremony would take place on Aug 14 evening or the next day.

Prime Minister Sharif dissolved the National Assembly on Aug 9 (Wednesday), three days prior to the expiry of the government’s term, therefore, according to the constitution, the next general elections will be held in 90 days’ time.

However, former interior minister Rana Sanaullah recently said as the elections will be held under the latest census which required delimitation, it was likely that polls would take place by March next year.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2023

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