As a part of its political strategy, the top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has decided, in principle, to appoint Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as a deputy prime minister in the new federal government set-up, highly placed sources told The Express Tribune.
Elahi, a former chief minister of Punjab during Pervez Musharraf’s rule, was promised the same slot by the PPP under former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s government. The arrangement, however, did not materialise due to ‘political reasons.’
“He will be a fully fledged deputy prime minister who will look after the Cabinet affairs in the absence of the prime minister,” a source said, referring to the prospective contempt proceedings against the new prime minister before the Supreme Court.
There will be no need to appoint a third prime minister if PPP’s replacement for Gilani is also convicted by the Supreme Court, the source added.
A key reason for Elahi’s non-appointment earlier was strong opposition by Gilani, who believed that there was no provision in the Constitution for a deputy prime minister.
Gilani also believed that the PPP leadership should choose a person from Sindh for the post since it would be politically unwise to have both, the prime minister and his deputy, from Punjab.
Ealhi was subsequently made a ‘senior minister’ for industry; in real terms though, he did not enjoy the status of that position.
Constitutional experts, however, say there is no bar in the Constitution if the government decides to appoint any parliamentarian against that office.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has already accepted the demand of its political ally, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), to accommodate Elahi as a deputy prime minister. Zardari considers Elahi as the best weapon to counter the opposition PML-N in Punjab in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is also trying to convince PPP to accommodate Senator Mushahid Hussain in the new set-up.
Mushahid was a serious candidate for a diplomatic assignment in New York earlier but the idea was shelved due to PPP’s refusal.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.