Pakistan’s leading opposition party PML-N seeks a key role in the appointment of a caretaker set-up in Sindh and Balochistan, besides the centre and Punjab, before kicking off formal negotiations with the government, The Express Tribune has learnt.
While the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan publicly ruled out the possibility of negotiations with the government, another group in the PML-N has been engaged in behind-the-scene, informal talks with the government over the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly and forming caretaker set-ups in the country.
Sources said that a team of the government headed by Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah has established contacts with Sardar Mehtab Abbasi and Ishaq Dar of PML-N. Both the PML-N leaders are known for their intimate ties with the Sharif leadership.
According to the Constitution, the caretaker prime minister will be appointed by the president in consultation with the premier and the leader of opposition belonging to the outgoing National Assembly.
In case of a disagreement, within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, the prime minister and leader of opposition will forward two nominees each to a committee constituted by the speaker of the National Assembly that comprises eight members of the outgoing National Assembly or the Senate or both, having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition.
If in case this panel fails, the ECP is empowered to send names of the caretaker prime minister to the president.
There is a kind of “procedural deadlock” due to which the government and opposition have not yet started formal negotiations, but inside sources are hopeful that “the process would start by mid February.”
The formal negotiation process is likely to start after PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif returns from Saudi Arabia.
Sources say that the opposition wants a role in the appointment of the caretaker government in Sindh and Balochistan.
However, Sindh’s assembly does not have a leader of the opposition, whereas in Balochistan governor’s rule has been imposed in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation.
A senior PML-N leader, however, hoped that talks between the government and opposition would start soon and members of the interim set-up will be selected with some consensus.
When asked about the ‘informal talks’ initiated by the government with his party, he said that the government wants dissolution of both the National and provincial assemblies on the same day.
Under the Constitution, it is the prerogative of the premier and chief ministers to dissolve national and provincial assemblies, respectively before the expiry of their five-year term.
Currently, the National Assembly will complete its term on March 16 and provincial assembly of Punjab is the last to complete its tenure on April 11.
The Islamabad Long March Declaration – an agreement between leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) Dr Tahirul Qadri and the government – includes the dissolution of assemblies prior to the March 16 deadline.
Referring to the long march declaration, the PML-N leader said: “it is the government which had made a commitment, not we.”
He said that the government has started pressing his party for an agreement over the dissolution of assemblies the same day.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2013.
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