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October 12, 2007

Shamsul Mulk takes oath as caretaker NWFP CM

October 12, 2007

PESHAWAR: Technocrat and apolitical Shamsul Mulk took oath as the NWFPís caretaker chief minister at the Governor’s House here on Thursday and again refrained from commenting on the protests staged against his appointment by the JUI-F and the ANP.

“No comments!” he remarked when asked for his reaction on the opposition to his appointment by two important political parties in the NWFP. He also declined to comment on the issue of the controversial Kalabagh Dam project, which he has been steadfastly supporting for years.

When asked about his likely priorities as the caretaker chief minister, he said holding free and fair elections in a peaceful manner would be his basic job. He told another questioner that it would be his endeavour to improve law and order in the province. “First, I would like to be briefed about the situation in the province. Then, we could proceed and try to do things,” he said.

However, Shamsul Mulk was quick to point out that he would be the caretaker chief minister with limited powers and for three months only.

Earlier, the 74-year-old Shamsul Mulk was administered oath by the Governor of NWFP, Lt General (Retd) Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, at the Darbar Hall of the sprawling Governor’s House complex. Only a few PML-Q activists clapped when the oath-taking was completed and the governor formally felicitated the caretaker chief minister on his appointment.

The PML-Q leaders and activists were present at the oath-taking ceremony in strength. Their happiness was visible on their faces and through their actions. “We suffered during the five years of MMA rule in the NWFP. This is a change for the better,” remarked Mushtaq Ghani, the parliamentary leader of the PML-Q in the just-dissolved provincial assembly.

PML-Q NWFP President and Federal Minister Amir Muqam, often touted by his party workers as the next chief minister, was also a happy man. However, he was trying to curb any public

expression of joy and only smiled when asked as to how he felt now that the MMA government in the province had come to an end. He also didnít want to comment on reports that he and his party had recommended Shamsul Mulkís appointment as the caretaker chief minister and opposed that of the JUI-F Senator Azam Khan Swati. That latter was reportedly a nominee of Maulana Fazlur Rahman for the job.

Federal Minister Salim Saifullah Khan, who was present at the ceremony, told Shamsul Mulk that anyone who had run a huge organisation like Wapda would be easily able to manage the affairs of the NWFP.

The JUI-F and its partners in the MMA including the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and other four small religio-political parties weren’t formally represented at the oath-taking function. The JUI-F-affiliated District Nazim of Peshawar, Ghulam Ali, attended the ceremony but he came in his official capacity. Former NWFP Assembly Speaker Bakht Jehan Khan, who belongs to the JI, was also present. His presence raised eyebrows but he chose to attend the event in his capacity as the outgoing speaker of the provincial legislature. A JI dissident and former MPA, Pir Mohammad Khan, was also spotted. He no longer follows JI’s strict disciplinary code.

Nobody from the ANP, the PML-N and the PPP turned up for the oath-taking ceremony. Neither Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao nor any other important PPP-S leader was seen at the function.

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