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May 23, 2018

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Caretaker PM: Another day of consultation at hand

ISLAMABAD: In an effort to end the deadlock over the appointment of caretaker prime minister, Premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah on Tuesday decided to allow themselves one more day to reach a consensus.

Otherwise, the matter will be referred to the parliamentary committee for decision. Sources said that Abbasi and Shah though did not agree on any of the six names exchanged between the two so far, they decided to continue discussions at least for another day to reach an agreement. Both agreed that new names could also be considered.

The prime minister even a day before Tuesday’s meeting had conveyed to the Leader of the Opposition his rejection to all the three names proposed by the latter. The PPP’s panel included the names of Jalil Abbas Jillani, Salim Abbas Jillani and Zaka Ashraf.

Khursheed Shah also did not agree on any of the three names proposed by the prime minister. The prime minister’s panel includes the names of Justice (R) Nasirul Mulk, Justice (R) Tassaduq Jillani and Ms Shamshad Akhtar.

The prime minister and leader of the opposition still have time to resolve the matter at their end as the Constitution anticipates consultations between them only after the dissolution of the National Assembly on expiration of its term.

In the light of Article 224A, the federal and provincial consultees will open consultations in the wake of dissolution of the assemblies. Not only this, the outgoing prime minister and chief ministers will continue in office till the appointment of the caretakers even after their and assemblies’ terms have come to an end.

As reflected in an earlier report of The News, the provision places no bar on the consultees to launch discussions prior to the wrapping up of the legislatures and does specifically mention that the process will start after their dissolution. The Article 224A specifies a maximum of eight days – three days for first two stages and two days for the third phase – after the dissolution of the assemblies to nominate the interim prime minister/chief ministers.

According to this article, in the first stage, the premier/chief ministers will attempt an agreement on the persons to be appointed the principal caretakers within three days of the dissolution of legislatures.

If they fail, the second phase will come into operation – the consultees will forward two nominees each to the concerned central or provincial parliamentary committee to be immediately constituted by the speakers, comprising eight lawmakers (six in case of provinces) of the outgoing legislatures, having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition, to be nominated by the respective consultees. The committees will finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister/chief ministers within three days of the referral of the matter.

The third and final stage will come in case of inability of the committees to decide the matter within the prescribed period -- the names of the nominees will be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for final decision within two days. Thus, a total of eight days will be available to the consultees and other forums like the parliamentary committees and the ECP to take the decisions.

However, the process will stand concluded at the very first stage if the consultees reach a consensus on the interim prime minister/chief ministers after or before the dissolution of the assemblies. Same will be the fate if agreements are arrived in the second phase in the parliamentary committees. The final phase will come into operation only after the failure of the two earlier phases. The article also says that the incumbent prime minister/chief ministers will continue to hold office till the appointment of the chief caretakers.

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