Dr Shams Kassim-Lakha another PPP nominee
The ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has finalised two names - Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, former finance minister and Dr Shams Kassim-Lakha, a top technocrat and former vice chancellor of Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi - for the post of caretaker prime minister, it is learnt.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Well-placed sources in PPP told Business Recorder that the two candidates were finalised after much brainstorming and keeping in mind their clean past record to ensure that opposition political parties would consider the two proposed candidates as a reflection of PPPP's intent to hold free, fair and transparent elections under a neutral interim set-up.
When asked why Dr Hafeez Shaikh would be acceptable to the opposition especially Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as he was part of the incumbent government till two days ago, PPPP insiders told this correspondent that his is not the only name and that Dr Kassim-Lakha was never part of any political party.
Dr Kassim-Lakha, sources added, is known for his honesty among both foes and friends, and has a good understanding of international issues as he is a seasoned technocrat. He is well regarded by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the other coalition partners are unlikely to object to his nomination.
A senior PML-N leader said that the party will never accept Dr Shaikh as the caretaker prime minister and added that Dr Kassim-Lakha is a new name in the race for the caretaker premier and the party will come up with its response after consultations with the government.
The sources in the ruling coalition also claimed that departure of MQM from the coalition at the last minute was part of the joint PPP-MQM strategy as the PPP will now get MQM support from the opposition benches in case leader of the house and leader of the opposition fail to reach a consensus in the choice of a caretaker premier. Article 224-A of the constitution would enable the MQM after it switched from the treasury to opposition benches, to benefit in Sindh while the PPP would benefit in the centre in the selection of the caretaker set-up in case of failure of the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition to reach a consensus.
Article 224-A of the constitution states: "in case the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the outgoing National Assembly do not agree on any person to be appointed as the care-taker prime minister, within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, they shall forward two nominees each to a committee to be immediately constituted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, comprising eight members of the outgoing National Assembly, or the Senate, or both, having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition, to be nominated by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition respectively."
The constitution also provides a similar procedure for the installation of caretaker set-ups in the provinces where a six-member committee will be constituted from the outgoing provincial assembly in any e province when the concerned chief minister and leader of the opposition fail to agree on the caretaker chief minister. Though there is no provision in the constitution which makes it mandatory for the Speaker National Assembly to give representation to any particular political party in the parliamentary panel, however, parliamentary sources said that based on past practice, the Speaker usually accommodates members in any parliamentary committee on the basis of their strength in the House. This would imply that MQM with its 20 seats in the national assembly would be entitled to at least one member participating in the committee.
PPP's strategists have therefore wisely chalked out a plan in order to ensure a caretaker set-up of its choice. If the matter of the caretaker prime minister was not resolved in the parliamentary panel, then it would be referred to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) where the PPP and its allies will have support of the three members from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in the five-member commission. The ECP has denied this charge and insists that its members are apolitical.