Committee’s final day to decide Caretaker PM

ISLAMABAD: Though the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the caretaker set-up remained inconclusive on the second day, its eight members are still optimistic about reaching a consensus on the issue today (Friday).

The committee formed on Tuesday would cease to exist on Friday and the matter would go into the court of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to decide on the caretaker prime minister by Sunday.

The committee meeting on the second day lasted for three and a half hours at the Parliament House and it was chaired by Sardar Yaqoob Nasir in which the names of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid and Dr Ishrat Hussain were discussed.

Though Thursday’s meeting remained inconclusive, as the PPP and PML-N failed to evolve a consensus, it decided to hold two sessions today (Friday) to make a decision on one of three nominations. Rasool Bukhsh Palejo was technically rejected by the committee and the deliberations would focus on Dr Ishrat Hussain, Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso and Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid.

However, according to sources, Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso is emerging as a potential candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister as per the selection criteria.

However, during deliberations, the PML-N members raised objections on Justice (retd) Khoso for being a PCO judge. At this, Farooq H Naek said that Justice Khoso retired as FSC judge in 1996 during Nawaz Sharif’s government and he was not a judge during Musharraf’s regime and there was no question of him being a PCO judge.

PML-N leader from Balochistan Yaqoob Nasir a day earlier had accepted that Justice Khosowas a righteous person. The profile of Justice (retd) Hazar Khan Khoso presented in the committee meeting was that 81-year-old Justice (retd) Khoso had vast experience as Chief Justice Balochistan High court from 1989 to 1991 and Chief Justice Federal Shariat Court from 1992 to 1994. Sources said that there was no objection to Justice (retd) Khoso except for his old age.

During the meeting, Naek presented the record of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam before the committee, according to which he remained a PCO judge. After Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf took power, Justice (retd) Nasir were among the judges who took oath under the PCO immediately.

On the conclusion of the meeting, the government members of the committee, Syed Khursheed Shah, Farooq H Naek, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour called on Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to apprise him of the proceedings of the meetings.

The PPP and PML-N members sought time from each other to decide the name of the caretaker prime minister in the Friday meeting of the committee.Talking to media persons after the meeting, Khursheed Shah said that discussions in the meetings were held in a cordial environment.

He said that the objections raised over both the government and opposition’s nominees would be addressed during the Friday meeting. Khursheed Shah further said the deliberations over the nominees were almost complete. “We will resolve the issue and will not let it go to the ECP,” he added.

He was of the opinion that the politicians never disappointed in any situation so they were still hopeful of coming up with a consensus on this issue. “If we take up the statements of Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan then, the meeting of the committee would not be possible. We are very hopeful of reaching a consensus by Friday,” he added.

PML-N senior leader Senator Pervez Rashid said the consultation on the selection of the caretaker prime minister was going on and they were very close to reach on a consensus. “Some individuals are propagating the failure of the politicians but consultations are still in progress,” he said.

He denied that a name had been finalized for the caretaker prime minister, insisting that the consultations were still going on.“Yes, we feel it will be the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) who will be deciding the issue,” Senator Pervez Rashid said.

He maintained that Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid was the best candidate for the caretaker prime minister slot, saying, there was no weight in the allegations being leveled by the PPP and its allies against their nominee.

During the meeting, the PML-N members once again categorically rejected the name of former State Bank Governor Dr Ishrat Hussain, saying that he had a long association with the World Bank (WB) and was still a WB pensioner.

Asked if any miracle was expected during the remaining two sessions of the parliamentary committee on Friday, Senator Pervez Rashid said there was no question of any miracle. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said that all the four nominees had been discussed and a final evaluation would take place on Friday. “I am hopeful that the matter will be resolved on Friday,” he added.

Farooq Naek told the newsmen that the merits of the nominees were discussed and committee members would pick the best candidate.Despite the rhetoric of the two sides and visibly stubborn attitude of the two teams, ‘back-channels’ are still at work to arrange a ‘swap’ of Lahore with Islamabad.

The members of the committee and the whole staff present inside the ‘Constitutional Committee Room’ are under oath not to divulge the proceedings regarding the deliberations to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister.

Well placed sources told ‘The News’ that despite the fact that both sides kept on insisting that they would not allow the matter to go to the ECP, their conduct was contrary to the desire as none was prepared to blink first.

The PPP has taken a position regarding the key nominee of the opposition i.e. Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid but the PML-N refused to accept the PPP veto in this regard.

The first meeting on Friday will be chaired by Senator Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain while the evening and decisive round of talks would be held under Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan Abbasi. The members of the committee are in constant touch with their respective leadership for guidance on the tricky subject. There are indications that the opposition could agree on the appointment of Dr Ishrat Hussain but only after its reservations were addressed, the sources said.