ISLAMABAD: Bad blood between President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif resurfaced on Friday when the former wrote to the premier, asking him to appoint a caretaker prime minister by Saturday (today).

PM Shehbaz, clearly displeased by the letter, questioned why the president was in a hurry and insinuated that he might not have read the Constitution.

The delay in nominating a caretaker prime minister was apparently because Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Raja Riaz, generally believed to be a “friendly opposition leader”, came out to be a different man, as he had been insisting on his candidate instead of agreeing to the names suggested by the PML-N, sources privy to the current political situation told Dawn.

Sources said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was insisting, through PM Shehbaz Sharif, on former finance minister Ishaq Dar to be picked as caretaker premier, and if not Mr Dar, then former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

However, Mr Riaz, a PTI dissident with no backing of a political party, was getting dictation from another power corridor and insisting on the name of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, sources claimed. Mr Sanjrani called on Mr Riaz on Friday, as well as Mr Dar and Ahsan Iqbal.

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz hosted a dinner for leaders of the outgoing ruling alliance. Later, he held a second round of consultations with the opposition leader, and both are set to meet again on Saturday.

President’s letter

Earlier, President Alvi asked PM Shehbaz and Mr Riaz to propose a name for the caretaker prime minister by Saturday.

In a letter written to PM Shehbaz and Mr Riaz on Friday, President Alvi recalled that he had dissolved the National Assembly on the premier’s advice on Aug 9.

“Under proviso to Article 224 (1A) of the Constitution, President appoints caretaker prime minister in consultation with the prime minister and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly,” he wrote. “Under Article 224A of the Constitution, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the outgoing National Assembly are required to propose the name of a person for the appointment of caretaker prime minister within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.”

President Alvi then directed PM Shehbaz and Mr Riaz to propose the name of the interim premier “not later than” Aug 12.

Talking to journalists later, PM Shehbaz expressed his displeasure over the letter but insisted that the name of the caretaker premier would be finalised on Saturday.

Mr Sharif said he still had eight days to serve as prime minister, adding that the president had no knowledge about the procedure of appointment of the caretaker prime minister as prescribed in the Constitution.

He explained that in case of their inability to evolve consensus on a single name, the matter would be referred to the parliamentary committee with a mandate to dispose it of within three days. In case of no agreement at that committee level, the matter would be taken up by the Election Commission, who would have to take the final decision within two days.

A senior PML-N senator told Dawn that no person with political affiliation should be handed over the caretaker charge and no stakeholder should pressurise the other in this regard.

On the names of Ishaq Dar and Sadiq Sanjrani for the interim set-up, the senator said appointing any political figure could mar transparency and fairness in the next general elections. He added that the Election Commission of Pakistan, which is responsible for holding fair elections, could reject the nomination of any political appointee.

Another senior PML-N leader termed Mr Sanjrani a “dark horse”.

Other possible contenders for the caretaker premier are Jilal Abbas Jilani, former finance ministers Dr Hafeez Sheikh and Ishaq Dar, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad, former justice Tassaduq Jilani, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pir Pagaro, and Makhdoom Mehmood Ahmed.

Coalition to back PM

Later, at the dinner reception hosted by PM Shehbaz, all outgoing ruling parties gave full authority to him to choose a name for the caretaker premier slot.

Prominent attendees were PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, BAP leader Khalid Magsi, Aslam Bhootani, Akhtar Mengal of Balochistan National Party, Mohsin Dawar, Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Shahzain Bugti of Jamhoori Watan Party, Chaudhry Salik, and ANP chief Ameer Haider Khan Hoti.

On the occasion, PM Shehbaz admitted that his government had gone through the worst inflation phase due to price hikes on the international market. He also urged all parties to go for seat adjustment in the coming general elections.

Meanwhile, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr Bhutto-Zardari had conveyed to PM Shehbaz that PPP would accept the premier’s nominee for the caretaker slot.

Earlier, in an interview with Hum TV, Prime Minister Sharif said he was not sure about Sadiq Sanjrani as the caretaker PM candidate but added that anything could happen in the coalition set-up.



Separately, Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party leader Jahangir Khan Tarin is also said to be backing Mr Riaz’s candidate, saying that his nominee would be more suitable for the slot of caretaker prime minister.


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