EXCLUSIVE: Consultations With PM On Interim Setup After Assembly Dissolution, Says Raja Riaz Ahmad

EXCLUSIVE: Consultations With PM On Interim Setup After Assembly Dissolution, Says Raja Riaz Ahmad
The constitutional process of consultations between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly to select the head of the caretaker setup to conduct the next general elections will be held after the lower house of parliament stands dissolved, either upon completion of its constitutional term or prematurely dissolved by the President.

"I would engage in a constitutional process with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to appoint a caretaker prime minister by proposing three names," stated Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmad said while speaking exclusively with The Friday Times.

The process of selecting a new caretaker prime minister, he opined, would last no more than three days, with a total of six names to be considered in the process -- three named by the opposition and three named by the government.

"I will propose three names, and three names will be suggested by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif," explained Ahmad.

The process will culminate after a suitable person is selected to hand over temporary administrative responsibilities of the nation to them.

READ MORE: No Extension In Tenure: Shehbaz Confirms Caretaker Setup To Take Over In August

The opposition leader, however, avoided sharing any hints about the three names that he would propose for the slot.

Rumours, however, are rife on who could be the interim prime minister. Some quarters have suggested that the relevant quarters are split over appointing a technocrat who is well-versed in administration and economics or a politician but with a strong economic team.

Some of the names floating around the power corridors of Islamabad, as well as Lahore, indicate that the names of former federal finance minister Hafeez Shaikh, Punjab caretaker chief minister Mohsin Naqvi, former journalist and Pakistan's permanent representative to the US Maleeha Lodhi, are in the hat. Earlier, names of a different set of technocrats were proposed, including textile miller Gohar Ijaz and media mogul Mohsin Baig.

Ahmad, however, stated that per the Constitution, once the national and provincial assemblies complete their terms or are dissolved by the President or the governor, as the case may be, a caretaker set up shall be appointed.

READ MORE: Caretaker Setup: Political Bigwigs Favour Politician Over Bureaucrat

The prime minister of the caretaker government would be decided after consultations between the outgoing prime minister (chief minister in the case of provinces) and the leader of the opposition. Both sides will propose a set of names and, after deliberations, seek to evolve consensus on at least one name.

Should the prime minister and the leader of the opposition of the outgoing national assembly fail to reach an agreement on a name agree on any person to be appointed as the caretaker prime minister within three days of the dissolution of the national assembly, they shall forward the names of two candidates each, to a bipartisan parliamentary committee to be immediately constituted by the Speaker.

Pakistan's last caretaker prime minister was Justice (Retired) Nasirul Mulk. He was selected to be the caretaker PM in 2018 after six rounds of deliberations between the government and the opposition.
Similarly, Justice (Retired) Mir Hazar Khoso was selected as the caretaker prime minister in 2013. He was preceded by Muhammad Mian Soomro (2007-2008), Malik Meraj Khalid (1996-1997), Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi (1993), Balakh Sher Mazari (1993), and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi in 1990.

READ MORE: Here Come The Caretakers

Ahmad, however, disclosed the ongoing farewell session of the national assembly, which commenced earlier in the week, will culminate on August 8, just days before the assembly's constitutional term is scheduled to end on August 13.

Beyond expectations

Looking back at his time as leader of the opposition after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was ousted from government in April 2022 and almost all other PTI lawmakers had tendered their resignations, Ahmed said it was a special time for him.

"My experience as opposition leader of the national assembly has been well beyond my expectations," he said, recalling that he had taken on this responsibility in a difficult political situation.

Before the culmination of the national assembly's tenure, the opposition leader said he plans to address the assembly and give his account of the past year and a half.

Contesting polls

Asked if he would contest in the upcoming general elections, Ahmed strongly asserted that he would do so.

"I am confident that I will be able to win the election by securing the most votes," he said.

READ MORE: ‘No Election Before Imran Khan Is Disqualified’

However, Ahmad chose to keep close to his chest cards about which party's ticket he would accept to contest the upcoming polls.

Prior to the 2018 elections, Ahmad was a staunch supporter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and had contested elections on PML-N tickets. But like many colleagues, he swept into the PTI.

Unlike many of his colleagues, who have jumped ship in recent weeks in the aftermath of the May 9 incident, Ahmad has remained steadfast, maintaining his loyalties with the PTI.