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Punjab settles on Sethi as caretaker

March 27, 2013

Photo shows veteran journalist Najam Sethi, who was chosen as the consensus man for the position of caretaker chief minister of Punjab province on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.—File Photo

LAHORE: Well-known journalist Najam Sethi was selected as caretaker chief minister of Punjab on Tuesday after marathon deliberations by the treasury and opposition members in the outgoing provincial assembly.

Mr Sethi’s name had been proposed by the opposition comprising the PPP and the PML-Q. Its other nominee was retired Justice Syed Zahid Bukhari.

The treasury had proposed the names of retired Justice Amir Raza Khan and Khwaja Zaheer.

“We’ve confidence in the person of Najam Sethi and hope that he’ll show impartiality as caretaker chief minister like he has been doing impartial (political) analyses,” former law minister Rana Sanaullah of the PML-N told the media outside the Punjab Assembly late on Tuesday evening even before taking the party’s decision to the six-member parliamentary committee.

Both the sides had been sticking to their viewpoints for three days and had almost decided to refer the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan, as required under the law.

But the PML-N leadership intervened at the last moment and called the party’s negotiating team — Rana Sanaullah, Mujtaba Shuja and Iqbal Channar — for a briefing.

A senior PML-N leader told Dawn that the party thought that had the matter been referred to the ECP the result would have been no different. He argued that the ECP had a majority of members likely to second PPP’s choice, a ‘fact’ which he said was visible in the selection of caretaker prime minister. By agreeing on the opposition’s nominee in the committee, the PML-N could at least try to occupy the moral high ground of honouring the opposition’s opinion as well as enabling politicians to decide important issues instead of looking towards retired judges, he added.

Mr Sethi is an experienced caretaker. From among all the names that have been discussed for inclusion in the interim governments tasked basically with the May 11 elections, Mr Sethi is the only one with a previous caretaker term to his credit. He was a federal minister in the caretaker set-up under Malik Meraj Khalid following the dismissal of the Benazir Bhutto government in 1996.

During his student life, Mr Sethi had fought along with the Baloch against army operation in 1974. Later, he shifted to Lahore and set up a books publishing business on The Mall, before bringing out a weekly, The Friday Times.

He had been picked up by security agencies during the previous regime of Nawaz Sharif in the late 1990s.