Pakistan’s main opposition PML-N party today stepped up the ante in negotiations for choosing a caretaker Prime Minister to oversee the upcoming polls by rejecting all three candidates proposed by the government.
Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a senior leader of the PML-N, said his party had reservations about all three candidates proposed yesterday by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
The government had named former minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, banker Ishrat Hussain and retired judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso as its candidates for caretaker premier.
Khan told a news conference that Shaikh had been the Finance Minister till recently while Khoso was once very close to Benazir Bhutto, the slain former chief of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.
Hussain did not fully qualify for the post of caretaker premier, he contended.
Stepping up the pressure on the PPP, Khan contended that negotiations could move forward if the government focussed on the candidates named by the PML-N.
At the same time, Khan announced that the PML-N was withdrawing retired judge Shakirullah Jan from its list of three candidates for heading the interim administration.
The PML-N would now back retired judge Nasir Aslam Zahid and Sindhi Awami Tehrik chief Rasool Bakhsh Palejo for the post, he said.
Sources said the PML-N was pushing the candidature of Zahid.
Some analysts too said Zahid was emerging as a front-runner for the post.
The PPP-led government is set to complete its five-year term tomorrow, paving the way for the next general election to be held sometime in May.
Prime Minister Ashraf had yesterday invited the Leader of Opposition for discussions at a “mutually convenient time” to choose a caretaker premier.
Shaikh, who has taught at Harvard and Cambridge universities and worked for the World Bank, resigned as Finance Minister on February 19 amidst growing speculation that he would play a key role in the caretaker set-up.
But Shaikh is not acceptable to the PML-N party as he is perceived by some as being too close to the military because he served as a minister under former dictator Pervez Musharraf.
The National Assembly will be dissolved after it completes its term on March 16.
Under the rules, the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition have to select the head of the caretaker government.
If they fail to achieve consensus within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, they will forward two names each to a bipartisan parliamentary committee to decide on a candidate within three days.
If the committee, which will comprise four members each from the treasury and opposition benches, also fails to choose a candidate, the names will be referred to the Chief Election Commissioner for a final decision within two days.