Pak political parties yet to reach consensus for caretaker PM

Pakistan`s 2 main political parties were engaged in war of nerves on issue of choosing caretaker Prime Minister to oversee elections, with PPP rejecting 2 candidates proposed by main opposition PML-N.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s two main political parties were on Saturday engaged in a war of nerves on the issue of choosing a caretaker Prime Minister to oversee elections, with the ruling-PPP rejecting two candidates proposed by the main opposition PML-N.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the Pakistan People`s Party had concerns over the two candidates nominated by the PML-N as it feared they would not be impartial.

President Asif Ali Zardari had been implicated in the murder of the brother-in-law of retired judge Nasir Aslam Zahid, one of the PML-N`s two candidates, Kaira told reporters here.

"The President was linked to the killing though he was in jail at the time. He was later acquitted in court," he said.
"Under such circumstances, he (Zahid) does not qualify at all. He will not do justice to the PPP," Kaira said.
The son of the PML-N`s other candidate, Rasool Baksh Palejo, was the head of a party that was in an alliance opposed to the PPP, he said.

"I have no personal objections to Palejo but he has personal interests and is opposed to the PPP," Kaira contended.

Kaira claimed Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had "made a joke" by proposing such candidates.

The PML-N has already rejected the three candidates proposed by the PPP former Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, banker Ishrat Hussain and retired judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso on the ground that they would not be impartial.

A PPP insider said the public stance adopted by the two parties was part of the intense negotiations and lobbying over the installation of a caretaker administration.

The PPP-led government will complete its five-year term tonight and the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition have to choose the caretaker premier by March 19.

"Both sides are trying to see who will blink first. The PML-N has adopted a strong position on the caretaker premier so that it can bargain on the issue of choosing a caretaker premier in Punjab," the PPP insider said. The PML-N is in power in Punjab.

Kaira told reporters that if there was no consensus on the names proposed by the PPP and PML-N, both parties could consider new candidates.

In a related development, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and the Chief Ministers of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh today agreed in principle that polls to the national and provincial assemblies would be held on the same day for logistical, administrative and financial reasons and to "promote political harmony".

Ashraf made the proposal that the polls should be held on the same day, said a statement issued by the premier`s office.

The premier met the Chief Ministers this afternoon and discussed matters related to the forthcoming general election.

Sources said PPP was holding consultations with other parties to decide on a date for the polls.

The general election is expected to be held sometime in May.

The meeting between the premier and Chief Ministers "expressed confidence that all matters relating to the appointments of caretaker set-ups at the federal and provincial levels would be resolved amicably", the statement said.

This is the first time in Pakistan`s history that the national and all four provincial assemblies have completed their full term.

If the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition fail to achieve consensus on a caretaker premier 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, too fails to choose a candidate, the names will be referred to the Chief Election Commissioner for a final decision within two days.