Pakistan Polls: Ashraf Proposes Names for Caretaker PM
Islamabad | Mar 14, 2013
Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf today proposed the name of former minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and banker Ishrat Hussain besides a retired judge for heading an interim administration and sought early response from opposition to set the stage for elections.

Ashraf announced the ruling Pakistan People's Party's candidates for the post of caretaker Prime Minister two days before his government completes its five-year term.

In a letter sent to Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, he proposed former Finance Minister Shaikh, former State Bank of Pakistan chief Hussain and retired judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso.

"I look forward to an early response so that we can put a closure to the issue and move forward to set the stage for holding general elections in the country," Ashraf said in the letter.

He described the three candidates, chosen following consultations within the PPP and with the party's allies in the ruling coalition, as "persons of known standing, integrity and competence".

Earlier, Khan, a senior leader of the main opposition PML-N party, had proposed retired judges Nasir Aslam Zahid and Shakirullah Jan and Sindhi Awami Tehrik chief Rasool Bakhsh Palejo as candidates to lead the interim administration that will oversee the general election expected to be held sometime in May.

Ashraf invited Khan for discussions at a "mutually convenient time so that we can agree on a suitable person in line with the constitutional obligations".

Only one of the candidates proposed by the ruling party and opposition – Rasool Baksh Palejo – is a politician and the others are technocrats or retired judges.

Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who has taught at Harvard and Cambridge universities and worked for the World Bank, resigned as Finance Minister on February 19 amidst growing speculation that he would play a key role in the caretaker set-up.

But Shaikh is not acceptable to the PML-N party as he is perceived by some as being too close to the military because he served as a minister under former dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Shaikh has also been criticised for failing to tackle weak economic growth, a huge budget deficit and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

He was unable to push through reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, including the widening of the tax base.

Ishrat Hussain is a leading banker and economist who served as head of the State Bank of Pakistan, the country's central bank, from December 1999 to December 2005.

Mir Hazar Khan Khoso retired as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Balochistan in 1991.

The National Assembly will be dissolved after it completes its term on March 16.

Under the rules, the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition have to select the head of the caretaker government.

If they fail to achieve consensus within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, they will forward two names each to a bipartisan parliamentary committee to decide on a candidate within three days.

If the committee, which will comprise four members each from the treasury and opposition benches, also fails to choose a candidate, the names will be referred to the Chief Election Commissioner for a final decision within two days.