Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Although the PPP is being criticised for its reluctance to announce dates for the caretaker set-up and general elections, the party leadership has practical considerations in doing so.

Sources close to the party leadership said President Asif Ali Zardari didn’t want to announce any date without agreement with the PML-N.

Second, the PPP don’t want to give date before the caretaker prime minister takes charge because it will undermine the authority of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Even in its agreement with Dr Tahirul Qadri, the government agreed to dissolve the National Assembly before March 16, when it will complete its five-year term. This would allow the Election Commission to hold elections within 90 days.

It clearly suggests the government is still not clear about its elections plans.

For the past few weeks, President Zardari and his party leaders are facing condemnation from all around for deliberately creating an uncertainty about the election because they are shying away from giving a definite date for polls.

Many believe that had the PPP co-chairman given schedule for the upcoming general election, nobody would have listened to Dr Qadri’s call for the long march.

Opposition parties in Lahore also called upon the government to immediately announce when the caretaker set-up will take over in the country, to be followed by date of elections.

Imran Khan is also for the immediate dissolution of assemblies and early general elections.

A close aide to President Zardari told Dawn that until and unless the PPP reached a broad agreement with the PML-N over every contour of the caretaker set-up, no definite dates could be announced.

“Neither the PPP nor the PML-N was in a hurry to go for a caretaker set-up, hence it got delayed,” argued Mr Zardari’s aide.

The PPP leader said if the party wanted to complete its term in the centre, so did the PML-N in Punjab.

He hoped that after the formation of a four-member committee by the president to hold negotiations with the opposition about selection of the caretaker set-up and holding elections, a consensus would soon be created for the purpose.

President Zardari had earlier this month formed a committee comprising Chief Whip in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek and Nazar Mohammad Gondal to initiate negotiations.

The PML-N is having a similar concern because Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the PML-N leaders would definitely not want to hand over power to caretakers long before April 8, the day when the provincial assembly would complete its five-year term.

The PPP leader wondered who was stopping the chief minister from starting negotiations with the opposition leader in the provincial assembly for a caretaker chief minister. The 18th Amendment empowers him to do so.

“It is strange that the PML-N has proposed names for the future caretaker prime ministers, but is keeping mum about a caretaker chief minister in Punjab,” said the PPP leader.

A PML-N leader, Khwaja Asif, had said earlier that his party in Punjab wasn’t bound to go along with the federal government as far as dissolution of the assemblies before the elections was concerned.

A number of mega development projects in major cities of the province, including a state-of-the-art bus service in Lahore are nearing completion and the chief minister wants to inaugurate them before leaving office.