Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah said on Tuesday that there was still a lack of consensus between him and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over the name of the caretaker prime minister.
The comment was made after a meeting between Shah and Abbasi to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister ended inconclusively.
“The prime minister said that the names forwarded by our side are good, but so are the names forwarded by their side,” Shah said after the meeting.
“The government has not insisted upon any name as yet,” Shah noted.
The opposition leader said another meeting will be held tomorrow or the day after to follow up on the discussions held today.
“We will have further deliberations on the chosen names and try to form a consensus,” Shah said, adding that he hoped the name will be finalised in the next meeting.
“If the matter is not settled in tomorrow’s meeting, the decision may be taken to a parliamentary committee,” Shah said, explaining that both sides will suggest two names each to the parliamentary committee which will then decide the matter.
If the committee also fails to come to a decision, the matter will be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which will then have prerogative to choose any one of the six nominated candidates.
The PML-N and the PPP had reached an understanding to delay announcing the names of the caretaker set-up probables and keep their discussions under wraps as long as possible to avoid unnecessary debate in the media.
Sources in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had earlier told Dawn that the party was considering the names of former diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani, former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Zaka Ashraf and former defence secretary Salim Abbas Jilani for the office of caretaker prime minister.
On the other hand, PTI Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry had told Dawn that Ashraf could never be accepted as the caretaker prime minister because of his known affiliation to PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari. Moreover, he said, Ashraf was also a member of the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC).
The sources said that the PPP and the PML-N did not have any objection to the name of retired Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jilani, but the two parties believed that the caretaker prime minister should not be from the judiciary.
“We are opposed to the appointment of a retired judge or a retired general for the post of the caretaker prime minister,” said a senior PPP office-bearer who is privy to the discussions in the party on the issue.
The sources said the PML-N was not much interested in pressing for its nominees and was ready to agree on the PPP’s nominee. They said the PML-N was even ready to consider the PTI’s nominees. They said the only new name which had been in circulation within the party ranks was that of former Supreme Court judge Nasirul Mulk.
The PTI had last month leaked the names of its candidates for the office of the caretaker PM and chief ministers in three provinces to the media. Its nominees for the caretaker prime minister were former chief justice of Pakistan Tasadduq Hussain Jilani, businessman Abdur Razzaq Dawood and economist Dr Ishrat Husain.
The PTI later said in an official handout that it had not officially released the names to the media and that the party was still discussing the matter.
Fawad Chaudhry had been critical of the government and the PPP for keeping the discussion on the caretaker set-up “secret”, saying they were not appointing atomic scientists. He had said even PTI chairman Imran Khan was of the view that there should be a public debate on the names of candidates for the caretaker set-up.
The PPP and the PML-N have repeatedly expressed the desire that they want to announce the name of the caretaker prime minister with consensus and do not want to see the matter getting referred to the ECP.
Fawad Chaudhry also said that his party also wanted the politicians to finalise the names with consensus. He said the PTI did not want to see the politicians handing over their affairs to other institutions.
Prior to today’s meeting both the prime minister and the opposition leader have already held three known formal meetings on the issue, but each time they claimed that they had not discussed or exchanged the names so far.
The term of the present government comes to an end on May 31, after which the caretaker set-up will be put in place to hold elections which are expected to be held in the last week of July.