With still much left to cover, today (Tuesday) is the last day for the leader of the house in the dissolved National Assembly and the opposition leader to build consensus over one name for the office of the interim prime minister.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Leader of the House, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan are the men who are poised to make this decision — with consensus.
The main opposition party is sticking to the two names it had put forward originally. It also wants to settle the issues of the interim setups in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan before giving any breather to the PPP.
PML-N seems ready to take the matter to the parliamentary committee to be constituted by the speaker by tomorrow (Wednesday) and finally to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) if no breakthrough is reached between the two sides.
Besides the six names already floated by the two sides, some new names might also come in the limelight and political pundits have not ruled out consensus on a completely new name not publicly discussed yet.
“We do not want to play ‘goody goody’ at the centre if they (PPP) do not give us importance in the new provincial setups. Provincial caretakers matter equally. In case of no agreement, we will bet our case in the ECP,” a top PML-N leader told The Express Tribune.
In some last minute efforts to finalise the matter, new names propped up during behind-the-scenes discussions including Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Senator Ishaq Dar from the PML-N side while PPP’s circles floated names of Dr Shams Kassim-Lakha and Senator Raza Rabbani.
It is likely that Chaudhry Nisar and outgoing Prime Minister Ashraf, in a last ditch effort, might meet in person, an official of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat revealed. However, telephonic contacts are certain, he added.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar and many other PPP leaders were hopeful that the issue will be settled before the committee level.
“We are hopeful of resolving this issue amicably,” he said.
Playing the poor economy card, while the PPP is banking on names like Dr Ishrat Hussain and Dr Hafeez Shaikh, PML-N is more worried about the security situation.
“Our main concern is law and order. At the centre, we are more interested to see who comes in as the minister for interior,” a PML-N leader said.
PML-N’s initial nominees included Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Rasool Bux Palijo and Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan. It later dropped the name of Shakirullah Jan.
PPP on the other hand had initially proposed the names of Dr Hafiz Shaikh, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso.
If PM Ashraf and Nisar fail to come to any conclusion by midnight, both would have to propose four names each to the speaker of the National Assembly to constitute a committee having equal representation from the treasury and opposition benches along with their two nominees each to make a decision within the next three days.
The PPP has already proposed names from its side for this committee. They are Farooq H Naek, Khurshid Shah, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.
ECP — the last resort
In case of a tie between the two sides in the committee, the same four names – two each forwarded by Ashraf and Nisar to the parliamentary panel – would be referred to the ECP at the end of third day.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2013.