After days of fruitless negotiations between the ruling government and opposition in Punjab, senior analyst Najam Sethi was unanimously selected on Tuesday to head the interim setup in the key province.
A six-member parliamentary committee, given the task to appoint caretaker chief minister, was all set to refer the matter to the Election Commission (ECP) earlier on Tuesday when intervention from incumbent Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif led to reports that PML-N had given the go-ahead for a PPP nominee.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, have already selected their caretaker chief ministers.
Moments before the panel was due to convene again on Tuesday, former provincial law minister and member of the committee from PML-N Rana Sanaullah told reporters in Lahore that PML-N had picked Najam Sethi, a PPP candidate, for the Punjab caretaker chief minister’s post. Sanaullah’s premature announcement initially distressed PPP members of the committee, who momentarily boycotted the meeting but later joined PML-N members to sign the summary of caretaker chief minister, which will be forwarded to Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood.
“We hope Sethi will guide the province through the upcoming elections in a fair, transparent and responsible way,” Sanaullah told reporters after the meeting.
Sethi is the editor-in-chief of the English weekly The Friday Times. He is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday.
Talking to reporters after his selection by the committee, Sethi said he would follow the Supreme Court’s orders and ECP’s directives to ensure free and fair elections.
“I will take decisions with courage and quit my post if anyone asks me to provide privileges,” Sethi said, adding that he would not stay at his post a day longer than his term expires.
According to sources in the PML-N, the senior leadership was wary of the decision being forwaded to the election commission since the party’s nominees were likely to be rejected by ECP due to ‘controversial’ credentials.
Sethi was selected by a six-member parliamentary committee, comprising three members each from the outgoing provincial government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and opposition party Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Former ministers Rana Sanaullah, Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman and Iqbal Chunnar represented PML-N in the committee, while PPP and PML-Q were represented by Shaukat Basra, Zulfiqar Gondal and Chaudhry Zaheer.
The PML-N had suggested the names of Justice Amer Raza (retired) and former bureaucrat Khawaja Zaheer Ahmed while the opposition had nominated Justice Zahid Husain (retired) and senior analyst Najam Sethi for the post.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2013.
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