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PML-N interested only in early poll

June 28, 2012

ISLAMABAD, June 27: All that matters to the Pakistan Muslim League-N after the departure of convicted prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is early general elections.

But background interviews with some senior members of the party indicated that despite its demand for early elections the PML-N wants newly-elected Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to take an initiative and contact the opposition for consultations.

“We want the new prime minister to immediately approach leader of opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for meaningful consultations on steps that can lead the country towards fresh polls,” PML-N information secretary Mushahidullah Khan said. He said the consultation should be on three issues -- appointment of the permanent chief election commissioner (CEC), setting up a caretaker government and finalisation of the election date.

When his attention was drawn to remarks of Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira that the opposition had run away from its commitment about setting up a separate court to deal with constitutional matters, Mr Khan made it clear that his party was not ready to discuss any other issue with the government.

He termed the setting up of a separate constitutional court a non-issue and said there was no need for wasting time on any useless debate because despite having agreement with the People’s Party in the Charter of Democracy, the setting up of constitutional court was not on his party’s priority list at the moment. “We will cross the bridge when we reach there,” he said.

Talking to reporters after attending a function at a private university here on Wednesday, Information Minister Kaira had accused the PML-N leadership of violating the CoD, signed by leaders of the two parties in 2006, by not agreeing on the establishment of a separate constitutional court.

Mushahidullah Khan said in a lighter vein his party was ready to talk to Mr Ashraf as far as he was a non-convicted person.

Endorsing Mr Khan’s viewpoint, PML-N’s deputy general secretary Ahsan Iqbal said his party would engage only on a one-point agenda -- a caretaker set-up.

When asked why the PML-N wanted the government to take the initiative, Mr Iqbal said his party had no problem over the issues of appointment of the CEC and setting up of a caretaker government since the PPP would not be able to do anything unilaterally in this regard after the 20th Amendment.

He said the PML-N was preparing a strategy that would force the government to announce the date for early election which, according to him, was the main issue at the moment.

He said the PML-N was in contact with other opposition parties and an opposition alliance was in the offing on a single-point agenda of holding free, fair and transparent elections at the earliest.

Mr Iqbal said the PML-N did not see any urgency on the appointment of the CEC since acting CEC Justice Shakirullah Jan was acceptable to it. In fact, he said, the name of Justice Jan had been proposed by the PML-N in the Parliamentary Committee on the Appointment of the CEC along with two other nominees, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid. “The ball is now in the government’s court and there is no need for us to take any initiative in this regard,” he said.

He said the PML-N would continue to mount pressure on the government to go for an early election after establishing a caretaker set-up.