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Experts say name of Nasir Khosa can’t be withdrawn

By Moayyed Jafri
May 31, 2018

LAHORE: Constitutional experts believe that the PTI’s withdrawal of Nasir Khosa’s name cannot stand in his way to become the Punjab caretaker chief minister for the 2018 elections.

The PTI had proposed two names – Kamran Rasool and Nasir Khosa – for the top caretaker position in the province, while the PML-N suggested the names of Justice (retd) Sair Ali and Tariq Saleem Dogar.

The names were shared between Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Mahmood-ur-Rasheed and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to discuss with Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif respectively for their approval. On Monday, both Mahmood and Shahbaz announced that they had reached an agreement over the name of Nasir Khosa as a unanimously agreed caretaker chief minister.

The legal experts say in the event of PML-N disputing the withdrawal of the agreed name and the matter leading to the judicial corridors, the PTI does not have plausible grounds to win this argument.

Veteran lawyer Abid Hassan Manto says although the Constitution does not clinically define at what point the mutually agreed candidate is beyond withdrawal, it is commonsense that once the consultation between the parties is done and both parties have agreed, then the notification of the governor is just a mere formality.

Responding to a question, he said as far as he was concerned, he did not see a reason why the matter would be taken to the court and be maintained because the process had been completed. “One cannot just challenge anything in court. There needs to be solid grounds to challenge something in court,” he said and added, “’Oh, we changed our minds’ does not qualify as a solid ground.”

He went on to say that the Constitution and law were not just mere words and neither these were devoid of reasonable and sensible interpretation. “Consultation had been completed and an agreement reached. According to laws of any agreement no party can unilaterally pull out of an agreement,” he concluded.

Advocate Supreme Court Salman Akram Raja says once the consultation is done and the mutually agreed name is announced, that is it, that phase is over. All what is to follow is just a consequential act of signing it. Some court, he said, could hold that this isn’t complete until the notification is signed, but in his opinion, it was a very solemn process that had already taken place.

According to Raja, once the announcement had been made there was an agreement reached and one party cannot unilaterally withdraw from it, because the legal principles of an agreement would apply to this agreement between PTI and PML-N as well.

While Mahmood argued that they had the right to re-consult and would announce their new candidate by Thursday evening, the PML-N chose to passively stick to the name of Nasir Khosa. As Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed that there was no room for reversal of this decision, PML-N President Shahbaz did not issue any reaction or opinion in this regard.

The situation, however, would be different if the PML-N chooses not to object fresh consultations because, in that case, it would not count as unilateral withdrawal.