ISLAMABAD: As part of its broad election strategy, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has decided in principle to have non-political personalities inducted as caretaker prime minister and provincial chief ministers, to dissolve all assemblies by mid-February and hold elections for national and provincial assemblies on the same date in the middle of May.
A senior PPP leader who attended the meeting of the PPP core committee on Monday told Dawn that the party would not approve of any retired military officer or retired judge for the slots of interim prime minister or chief ministers. He spoke at length about the key decisions taken by the PPP for elections, but declined to talk on record.
He said the PPP leadership decided that the five key positions — the interim prime minister and four chief ministers — would be filled with non-controversial personalities like reputed former bureaucrats or persons of integrity, citing the name of former ambassador to the United Nations Hussain Haroon as example.
According to the PPP leader, the exact date for dissolution of assemblies was discussed, but it was agreed that assemblies be dissolved by middle of February and elections held within 90 days by mid-May. He agreed that delaying elections beyond mid-May was not in the interest of the PPP because of hot weather and the loadshedding.
He said the PPP would propose holding of national and provincial assemblies on the same day. To achieve this, a committee, headed by Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah and comprising one member each from four provinces, would hold talks with the Pakistan Muslim League-N this week to dissolve all assemblies on the same date because the Punjab Assembly’s tenure would expire a few days after other provincial assemblies.
The PPP leader said the core committee also discussed the name of the proposed new province and recommended that instead of Bahawalpur Janoobi Province, the new province be named as Bahawalpur Seraiki Province irrespective of the PML-N’s reaction.
He said the PPP decided for the time being to go for introduction of a bill or recommendations of parliamentary commission on new provinces in the National Assembly to create only one new province as opposed to two provinces being suggested by the PML-N. The bill would be discussed at the meeting of the federal cabinet on Wednesday and presented to the National Assembly during its ongoing session.
He said the PPP leadership believed that if the PML-N agreed to the creation of Bahawalpur Seraiki Province, it would be considered a victory and political gain for the PPP but the chances of such a breakthrough were apparently limited. In the event of PML-N opposing the new province, it would again be a political gain for the PPP.
He said the meeting also discussed two names for the post of caretaker prime minister floated by the PML-N, but noted that both the personalities may not be cleared by the intelligence agencies. In that case, the PML-N would obviously have some alternative names in mind that the PPP would like to discuss through the Khursheed Shah committee. He said the PPP would also float some names of its nominees after consultations with allied parties and try to reach a consensus with the PML-N.
When asked how the PPP planned to deal with the situation in Balochistan given the suspension of the provincial assembly, he said the chances of restoration of government in that provinces did not arise given the fact that the Constitution provided for governor’s rule for two months and by that time all other assemblies would stand dissolved.
In reply to another question, the official said the core committee had not discussed as yet the names for caretaker prime minister because the leadership wanted to hold consultations with allied parties first.