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ISLAMABAD, March 17: The controversy over the issue of selection of a caretaker prime minister has again exposed a lack of trust between the two main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).

PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq and leader of opposition in the Senate Ishaq Dar rushed to the residence of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday after he publicly expressed displeasure over Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the name of Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan from the list of opposition’s nominees for the post of the caretaker prime minister.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Dar confirmed that the Maulana had been annoyed by Chaudhry Nisar’s move without taking his party into confidence. The Maulana, he said, had requested the PML-N to include the name of Justice Jan in the list again.

Replying to a question, Mr Dar said they had gone to see Maulana Fazl ‘only for the sake of unity in the ranks of opposition and on moral grounds since under the constitution, it is not binding upon the leader of opposition to consult any other political party on the issue’.

The gulf between the two parties, which had only last month agreed to contest elections with ‘mutual understanding’, is expected to widen after Chaudhry Nisar categorically stated on Sunday that Justice Jan’s name would not be put again in the list of the nominees. Chaudhry Nisar’s statement came after a meeting of the PML-N team with the Maulana.

Sources in the PML-N said the party did not want to include the JUI-F or the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the parliamentary committee likely to be formed to select a caretaker prime minister in two days if the prime minister and the opposition leader failed to reach unanimity.

The PML-N leadership, they said, believed that the JUI-F could not be trusted because of its past track record with its members having openly supported and voted in favour of the government while representing the opposition in some parliamentary committees.

A senior member and a key office-bearer of the PML-N said that Mian Nawaz Sharif had agreed to attend the JUI-F’s multi-party conference on terrorism last month as a goodwill gesture only after Maulana Fazl had announced in front of reporters in Raiwind that he would accept any nominee of the PML-N for the office of caretaker prime minister. After the assurance, the PML-N leader said, the Maulana’s reaction to the withdrawal of a candidate showed that there was something ‘fishy’.

After dissolution of the National Assembly and failure of the government and the opposition to reach a consensus, the issue of the appointment of caretaker prime minister is now expected to be resolved under the Article 224A of the Constitution.

The article envisages that the matter will go to an eight-member parliamentary committee having equal representation of the government and opposition. If the committee fails to decide on one name, the Election Commission of Pakistan will select the caretaker prime minister.