ISLAMABAD .: Month-long deliberations for the appointment of caretaker prime minister ended on Monday as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah agreed on the name of former chief justice of Supreme Court Nasirul Mulk.
The much-anticipated decision was announced at a joint press briefing at Parliament House by Abbasi, Shah and Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq.
According to sources, Sadiq played an important role in breaking the impasse between Abbasi and Shah, persuading the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly to support Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk’s candidature.
Previously, another former chief justice, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, was rated as ‘hot favourite’ for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Other candidates considered during the talks included former governors of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain and Dr Shamshad Akhtar and Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi. Even though Mulk was regarded as underdog, he won the race.
The sources said that Tassaduq Jillani was a favourite candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), but the party changed its mind at the last minute because of Jillani’s relationship with Pakistan Peoples Party leader and former PM Yousaf Raza Gillani.
According to a PML-N leader, Abbasi and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif discussed the issue over the phone on Monday morning. Sharif is said to have favoured Mulk over Jillani.
The sources, meanwhile, said that Abbasi and Shah discussed at least four prospective candidates on Monday and the list did not include Mulk’s name. The names discussed on Monday were Tassaduq Jillani, Dr Ishrat Hussain, former foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani and his brother Salim Abbas Jillani.
This was implicitly confirmed by Shah during the press briefing. Shah said that Mulk was not among the ‘final four’ and his name did not figure in the recent talks.
“We negated the criticism that politicians were unable to take decisions independently. We have made the best [possible] decision,” Shah said before announcing the name of the caretaker PM.
The PM and the NA speaker terming it a historic development and said that time would prove them right.
PML-N insiders say that Mulk’s name had been floated at the last moment when it appeared that the talks would end in a deadlock. This, they said, had surprised Shah.
Subsequently, the name was also endorsed by the speaker during his meeting with the opposition leader at the Parliament House.
Reports suggest that Shah had sought time before agreeing to Mulk’s candidature and discussed the matter with PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari, who agreed to the name.
Top PPP leaders wanted to resolve the issue in a bid to avoid referring the matter to the parliamentary committee concerned. “If this matter had gone to the parliamentary panel, the chances of any PPP candidates rising to the post were bleak,” said a well-placed source privy to the matter.
The PML-N had proposed three names for caretaker premiership – Tassaduq Jillani, Nasirul Mulk and Shamshad Akhtar.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had suggested the names of Tassaduq Jillani, Dr Ishrat Hussain and industrialist Abdul Razak Dawood.
The PTI had earlier said it would have no objection if Mulk was appointed as caretaker PM, meaning that Jillani and Mulk had the backing of both PML-N and PTI.
Meanwhile, the PPP supported the candidature of Zaka Ashraf and the Jillani Brothers i.e. Jalil Abbasi Jillani and Salim Abbasi Jillani.
Interestingly, the Jillani Brothers are closely related to the PTI and PML-N’s nominee Tassaduq Jillani. The three Jillanis also had close kinship to veteran PPP leader and former PM Yousaf Raza Gillani.
Meanwhile, Mulk would be sworn in as the country’s seventh caretaker PM on June 1 – a day after the National Assembly completes its tenure on May 31.
Mulk is from the Swat district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and belongs to a renowned political family. He succeeded Tassaduq Jillani and served as the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan between July 2014 and August 2015.
Mulk has also served as acting Chief Election Commissioner between November 2013 and July 2014. He also headed the Judicial Commission which probed the PTI’s allegations of rigging in the 2013 general election.
Before joining the superior judiciary, Mulk twice served as president of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) after serving as the bar association’s general secretary. He has also served as advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North West Frontier Province then.
The formal process of selecting the caretaker prime minister began on April 11, following a meeting between Abbasi and Shah. The talks remained inconclusive till a consensus was achieved on Monday.