ISLAMABAD: Sindh’s top constitutional slot finally went to Muhammad Zubair on Monday after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to appoint an ‘underdog’ instead of a ‘heavyweight’ as the province’s governor.
On the premier’s advice, President Mamnoon Hussain approved a summary for Zubair’s appointment as Sindh governor. Until he takes oath as governor, Zubair will continue to serve as chairman of the Privatisation Commission.
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The decision on Zubair’s appointment came shortly after a meeting between the president and the prime minister, according to Prime Minister House sources. However, a statement from the presidency made no mention of the subject and said only that CPEC and national and international issues were discussed.
Zubair will be the 32nd governor of Sindh. The slot fell vacant following the death of Justice (retd) Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui on January 11, just two months after his appointment. Siddiqui’s predecessor Dr Ishratul Ebad held the office for a staggering 14 years.
Sources said Zubair’s appointment had much to do with the federal government’s decision to ‘accommodate’ the security establishment. Zubair is the son of Maj Gen (retd) Ghulam Umar (late) and is believed to have cordial ties with the security brass. He is the elder brother of PTI MNA Asad Umar.
“In the given circumstances, when crucial issues have surfaced — like extension in military courts’ tenure, ‘planted ‘ story probe, negative media campaign against Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif that attracted a grim rejoinder from the military and related issues — allowing the security establishment’s will to prevail over governor’s appointment [is] not a bad deal,” said an aide to the prime minister.
Although Zubair was in the race for governor from the start, the real competition was thought to be between Mushahidullah Khan and Khawaja Qutubuddin, insiders said.
The PML-N leadership was inclined to pick Mushahidullah but keeping in view its possible fallout on the government’s ties with the security brass, the plan was discarded. President Mamnoon was said to be actively lobbying for Qutub but the premier was personally not in his favour. Qutub was a PML-N senator in 1999 when Pervez Musharraf toppled Nawaz’s government in a coup. Following that, Qutub silently distanced himself from the party.
“Mushahidullah was certainly a favoured candidate of our top leadership on account of his unflagging loyalty during the Musharraf era. Dropping a loyalist like him was a tough choice,” a PML-N source said.
Sources added that the decision to pick a candidate from urban Sindh who was involved in key economic affairs at the centre was also taken due to the Karachi factor.
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“Stakes are high as far as Karachi is concerned and decisions have to be taken wisely to appease the stakeholders politically and through practical measures,” a source said. “You need someone with a better socio-political and socio-economic understanding of Karachi.”
Prime Minister’s Adviser Amir Muqam, when contacted, said “the premier made the right choice keeping in view conditions in Sindh in general and Karachi in particular.”
PML-N top ranks had been split over who should be chosen as governor, with some powerful lobbies pressing for a ‘proactive and aggressive’ candidate as opposed to others calling for a ‘passive’ individual.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2017.