LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Citing ‘immense’ public reaction, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has announced withdrawing nomination of Nasir Mahmood Khosa for the slot of Punjab caretaker chief minister – a move ruthlessly criticised by political opponents and rejected by the Punjab government as unconstitutional.
The PTI, after a meeting of its core group chaired by Imran Khan on Wednesday, announced the decision to withdraw Khosa’s nomination. It said it would come up with new nominations for the slot by afternoon today (Thursday).
However, the Punjab government rejected the move terming it ‘unconstitutional’. It said holding consultation afresh, once done in accordance with the Constitution, would be a violation of law.
The government also said that after an agreement over the name between Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Mehmood-ur-Rashid, a summery seeking Punjab governor’s endorsement over the appointment of Khosa as interim CM Punjab had already been sent.
“Khosa’s name was finalised through consultation. There is no way to retract the whole consultation process by withdrawing an agreed nomination. Holding fresh consultation is not possible as per the Constitution,” said Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.
According to sources, Shehbaz had informed members of the cabinet during its last meeting that the summary for caretaker CM, after the consent of the opposition leader, was forwarded to the Law Department from where it had been sent to the Governor House.
He said Punjab Governor Rafique Rajwana would give the summary his approval after the completion of the government’s five-year tenure on May 31 (today) after midnight. However, the Governor House has officially denied receiving any summary from the Law Department till the filling of this report.
The PTI leadership had finalised the names of Khosa and Gohar Ijaz for the slot of Punjab’s interim CM and agreed on Khosa’s name after consultation with CM Shehbaz. Later, Khosa’s nomination was announced by Shehbaz and Rashid at a joint press conference.
Talking to The Express Tribune with regard to the PTI’s sudden change of heart, Rashid said, “Not only the party activists but some senior PTI leaders and intelligentsia also objected to Nasir Khosa’s name that led the party to revisit its decision.”
He said the PTI believed that Khosa’s appointment as Punjab’s interim CM would be a continuation of the PML-N government in the province as “Khosa enjoys close association with Sharifs”.
Rashid said earlier a decision was made in ‘haste’ as the party had fallen prey to ‘misunderstanding’ over the issue.
Answering a question, Rashid said Khosa’s name was not proposed by him, and it was his party’s top leadership that had forwarded him that name.
The PTI would announce its new nominations today (Thursday).
A senior member of the PTI core group said: “We respect Nasir Khosa for his credibility but he has become controversial as his closeness to Sharifs has become public and we don’t want anyone controversial as that will impact fair and free elections.”
He said following Khosa’s nomination, many issues related to his closeness with the Sharifs were brought to the knowledge of the PTI chief which made him change his mind.
He rejected the impression that PTI’s former secretary general Jehangir Khan Tareen was the one who initially suggested the name of Khosa to the party chairman.
Khosa, who has held several important positions including chief secretary of Punjab and Balochistan, is the brother of Supreme Court judge Asif Saeed Khosa, who used the term ‘Godfather’ for deposed premier Nawaz Sharif. He is currently working as alternate executive director in World Bank.
This is the PTI’s second ‘U-turn’ in connection with the caretaker setup. On Saturday, the PTI also agreed with the leader of opposition in Khyber Pakhtunkwa (K-P) Assembly to appoint Manzoor Afridi as K-P’s interim CM.
After the nomination, the party had not only issued a press statement but also released photos showing Afridi meeting the PTI chief at his residence in Bani Gala. However, later the party announced withdrawal of Afridi’s nomination.
During the core group’s meeting on Wednesday, the PTI came up with two new nominees for the K-P’s interim CM – Himayatullah and Ejaz Qureshi.
Opponents lambast PTI
The government and the opposition criticised the PTI’s move saying the party had become a laughing stock due to its track record of taking U-turns on every important political decision.
Pakistan Peoples Party Secretary General Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said the PTI’s role had been fully exposed “which also proves that the PTI is politically immature and cannot be trusted with government anywhere in Pakistan”.
Bukhari described withdrawing Khosa’s name as a manifestation of Khan’s inability to take decisions of national importance. “How can the nation hand over the reins of government to a person who lacks political acumen and cannot take vital decision for the country!”
Senator Perveiz Rashid said the name decided after consultative process by both the government and the opposition could only be reconsidered with the consent of both sides.
“No side can unilaterally withdraw from the decision. Legally the name has been decided and there is no legal cover nor any precedent of reconsidering a name after a decision,” he said.
He said neither the PML-N nor Khosa asked the PTI to forward his name. The PML-N could not allow the PTI to ridicule such an upright person like that, he added.
Addressing a press conference, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also lambasted the PTI chief, who, she said, had a history of telling lies and conveniently taking ‘shameless’ U-turns.
“Running the country’s affairs is not a child’s play and Khan has proved he is not capable of that,” she said.