PM Shehbaz hopeful of finalising caretaker PM today

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses a ceremony organised for the staff of PM Office and PM House on August 10, 2023. — APP

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has indicated that the name of the caretaker prime minister is expected to be finalised following his last round of consultations with Opposition Leader Raja Riaz in Islamabad today (Saturday).

If the premier and Riaz do not agree on a name today, the matter will then be referred to a parliamentary committee, as Saturday is the third and the last day to make a decision in the wake of the National Assembly’s dissolution on August 9.

The prime minister, in his address to the leaders of the coalition parties during dinner last night, spoke about his expected meeting with the opposition leader to consult him for finalising the name for the top government post.

“[I] met Raja Riaz yesterday. I will meet [him] tomorrow,” he said, informing that his second round of the meeting, which was to be held on Friday, was postponed due to his busy schedule and Lahore visit.

According to reports, Raja Riaz has suggested the name of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani as the interim prime minister with general elections expected to take place early next year.

The prime minister’s comment comes after President Dr Arif Alvi wrote a letter to him, reminding him and the opposition leader to suggest a “suitable person” for the interim premier by August 12 (Saturday).

In a letter to both PM Shehbaz and Riaz, the president informed them that under Article 224A they are supposed to propose a name for interim prime minister within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.

“As provided in Article 224 (1A) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition in the outgoing National Assembly may propose a suitable person for the appointment of care-taker Prime Minister not later than 12th August,” said President Alvi in the letter.

Commenting on the letter by President Alvi, PM Shehbaz said: “It is a pity that the president of Pakistan has written a letter.”

The premier added that the president has asked him to send the name of the caretaker prime minister by 12am.

PM Shehbaz said the matter of finalising an interim premier’s name spans eight days.

As per the country’s Constitution, if the prime minister and the NA opposition leader fail to agree on the name within three days, the matter goes to the parliamentary committee for the appointment of a caretaker PM.

As per the law, the premier and the opposition leader will send their respective preferences for the coveted post to the parliamentary delegation.

The parliamentary committee will then have to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister within three days. But if the committee also fails to reach a consensus on the name, then the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will pick the caretaker prime minister within two days from the names proposed by the opposition and the government.

The premier, while speaking with journalists in Islamabad on Friday, said that the coalition partners would be taken into confidence over the matter before taking a final decision.

‘Nawaz Sharif for country’s interest’

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal spoke about the first meeting held between the premier and Riaz on Thursday (August 10) for deciding the name for the interim premier following which PM Shehbaz consulted with the allies.

“It is hoped that the decision will be taken by consensus, which requires a lot of consultation,” he said, maintaining how the process can slow down due to deliberations.

The former minister, when speaking during Geo News programme ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath’, said that the matter of the caretaker prime minister would be resolved amicably.

He also clarified that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had not insisted on a certain name. The party, in fact, wanted the decision to be taken in the interest of the country, which was to continue the Shehbaz-led government’s policy following Pakistan’s economic state.

“Continuity is essential in the economic situation of the country,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal’s clarification came in response to assumptions that his party is pushing for its own members for the coveted post.

Meanwhile, no names had been officially floated by the PML-N, but mere mentions of former finance minister Ishaq Dar and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had been doing the rounds for the last few weeks.

The former minister asserted that the caretaker prime minister would choose their caretaker cabinet on their own.