Abbasi, Shah to discuss caretaker set-up on Wednesday

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah will formally hold a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the appointment of a caretaker government for the upcoming general elections.

Mr Shah disclosed this to reporters at his Parliament House chambers on Monday, and shared that this would be his second meeting with the prime minister on the issue.

He claimed that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had not yet finalised a name for the office of caretaker prime minister. Neither had any other opposition party suggested a name for the caretaker prime minister so far, he added.

The PPP leader was of the view that if the government had thought of possible nominees, it should not declare them and wait for the opposition to share its nominees first. He said that he wanted to suggest names of people who had a good reputation because transparency and fairness of the election depended heavily on the conduct of the caretaker set-up.

Mr Shah also suggested the formation of a parliamentary committee to ensure accountability of politicians. He was of the view that such a committee could become more powerful than the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or any other institution.

He also urged the government to name the new international airport in Islamabad after the PPP’s late chairperson Benazir Bhutto, and said that his party would take the matter to the Supreme Court if the government did not agree to their demand.

He said he would challenge the names of all hospitals and universities named after politicians convicted of corruption.

Under the Constitution, consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader is essential for the appointment of a caretaker government to carry out the general elections in a fair and transparent manner.

Mr Shah has already held informal meetings with almost all opposition parties on the issue and he is expected to hold another round of consultations with them after meeting the prime minister.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the other main opposition party, also wants a role in the process of appointing caretaker governments at the Centre and in all the provinces.

In a recent news conference, PTI chairman Imran Khan had stated that they would not allow the PPP and the PML-N to strike a deal on the appointment of a caretaker set-up, as the two parties had allegedly done in 2013.

However, political experts believe that this time around, the PTI will not be in a position to raise a hue and cry over the conduct of caretaker governments at least in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the party will have a direct role in the nomination of a caretaker set-up.

The PTI appears to be more worried about the future caretaker government in Punjab, knowing that in the general elections, the party with the most seats in the province will take the driving seat in forming a government at the Centre.

However, PTI’s vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said so far, he had not held a formal consultation with Mr Shah on the issue of a caretaker set-up.

Responding to a question, Mr Qureshi claimed that his party was also yet to finalise names of people who could be nominated for the future caretaker set-up. He said the party had already convened a meeting of its central executive committee on Thursday and the issue could be discussed in that meeting.