In his first address to the media after taking charge as Punjab’s caretaker chief minister, Dr Hasan Askari said the interim government was responsible for providing equal opportunities to all political parties.
He was talking to the media outside Allama Iqbal’s mausoleum on Saturday.
The caretaker CM said that his provincial cabinet will be limited and apolitical. “Our aim is to hold free and fair elections which we will work on under the Election Commission of Pakistan’s framework.”
He added that maintaining peace during the elections was the priority of the caretaker setup.
“The district administration is always unbiased and is never part of politics,” he said.
Responding to a question, he said that “alien forces playing their role in the elections” is a political narrative used by political parties for their benefit.
Askari took oath as the caretaker chief minister on Friday amidst controversy. After a deadlock in deciding on a name for the caretaker chief minister by the parliamentary committee, the matter was forwarded to the ECP which selected Hassan Askari.
The PML-N has not only rejected the appointment but also demanded that Askari voluntarily step down from the position to ensure that general elections do not become controversial.
Hasan Askari takes oath as Punjab interim CM
Objecting to ECP’s decision, a press conference was held outside the PML-N secretariat on Thursday and presided over by outgoing prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi. He was flanked by former federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Khurram Dastgir and former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah.
Addressing the press conference Abbasi said the decision to make Askari caretaker CM would cast a shadow of doubt over the entire election process. He said that the caretaker setup should be led by a person who is neutral and unbiased and Askari’s tweets, articles and TV stints, all exhibit biases.
The former premier also said that having a contentious figure lead the province into elections casts severe doubts over the probability of neutral polls. He termed Askari’s selection as unfortunate and demanded the ECP reconsider its decision and select a fresh candidate for the post’ one who fulfills the criteria of being neutral and unbiased.
At the end of last month, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced withdrawing the nomination of Nasir Mahmood Khosa as caretaker CM. The party cited ‘immense public reaction’ as the reason.
The PTI, after a meeting of its core group chaired by Imran Khan, announced the decision to withdraw Khosa’s nomination.
At the time, the Punjab government rejected the move, terming it as ‘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 Mehmoodur-Rashid, a summary seeking Punjab governor’s endorsement over the appointment of Khosa as interim CM Punjab had already been sent.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2018.