ISLAMABAD, Sept 16: Senior PML-N leaders have started expressing doubts about the intention of President Asif Ali Zardari to hold general elections on time.
Sources in the party told Dawn that during recent meetings held in Murree in the first week of August and later in Raiwind, the leaders said they were not sure if general elections would be held on schedule.
Both PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan recently accused the PPP leadership of looking for excuses to delay the elections and termed the talk about local government elections a pretext being used by the government for the purpose.
Chaudhry Nisar’s recent move to unofficially float names of potential caretaker prime ministers was part of the opposition party’s strategy as a feeler to assess the reaction of political forces, especially the intention of the PPP about holding general elections due in 2013, said a PML-N leader.
Much to the chagrin of the opposition, the move appeared to have backfired. Two of the seven proposed candidates for the caretaker prime minister, which Mr Nisar had leaked to the media, have refused to accept the post.
Whereas PPP leaders have already made it clear that they wouldn’t go no for early elections they are keeping quiet about the caretaker set-up and the names proposed by the PML-N to head it.
In accordance with the 20th Amendment, a consensus is required between the prime minister and the leader of opposition on the issue of the caretaker prime minister before the National Assembly completes it term.
Going by the constitution, if the National Assembly completes it constitutional five-year term on March 16 next year, the caretaker set-up must hold general elections within 60 days. In case the event of dissolution of the National Assembly before that date for any reason, elections should be held within 90 days.
When asked why the opposition party was in a hurry for the selection of the caretaker prime minister when there was still considerable time left, the PML-N leader said: “We don’t want to give the PPP an impression that we are not ready for elections, nor to let them consider anything else other than elections.”
“Yes, constitutionally the government is not bound to agree to the PML-N’s proposed names before March next year, an early agreement on one name would remove doubts about future elections,” he said.
“Yes, the PML-N leadership is seriously worried about the next general elections because President Asif Ali Zardari is no more trustworthy for us,” he said. The issue for the PML-N was not early but timely elections,” he said.
“What if tomorrow the government decides to go ahead with much talked about North Waziristan military operations and in the process invokes the emergency clause to postpone polls,” said the PML-N leader.
“We have seen in the past that be it the restoration of judges and imposition of the governor’s rule in Punjab and now the government’s ongoing clash with the Supreme Court over the Swiss letter issue, President Zardari doesn’t mind taking extreme positions. Thus, we have to be very watchful,” said the PML-N leader.
Talking to Dawn, senior lawyer S.M. Zafar said the president had the option of imposing emergency in case of foreign aggression or serious law and order situation, but unless there were genuine grounds for such an extreme step the Supreme Court would simply strike down the emergency.