LAHORE - In a surprise move, PML-N on Tuesday finally agreed to the name of senior journalist Najam Sethi for the slot of Punjab caretaker chief minister.
After the three-day deliberations to evolve consensus on one name, the parliamentary committee announced on Tuesday afternoon that it had failed to agree to one name and that now the matter would go to the Election Commission of Pakistan for decision.
But the deadlock over the selection of caretaker chief minister took a dramatic turn when PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif intervened into the matter and approved the name of Sethi, host of TV current affairs programme ‘Aapas ki Baat’.
After the final announcement by the parliamentary body, the outgoing Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told media people that PML-N wanted the issue to be resolved at the level of the parliamentary committee to facilitate timely transfer of power to the caretaker government.
Consequently, all the members of the committee were called back to engage in discussions yet again. The deliberations continued for two hours late in the night and, finally, the PML-N team agreed to Najam Sethi’s appointment as caretaker chief minister. He was one of the nominees of the opposition parties in Punjab.
Justice (r) Amir Raza Khan, Justice (r) Zahid Hussain and Khawaja Zaheer, a retired bureaucrat, were the other three candidates, shortlisted by the government and the opposition parties for the purpose. In the beginning, the opposition also suggested the names of Mian Amir Mehmood, Asma Jehangir and Hafeez Akhtar Randhawa to head the caretaker setup in Punjab, but withdrew these names after opposition from PML-N.
The caretaker chief minister-designate will take oath of his office today (Wednesday). Punjab Governor Makhdum Ahmed Mehmud will administer oath to him.
PML-N’s decision to pick Sethi came as a big surprise for many as the veteran journalist, now ‘aapas ka’ (mutual) caretaker, has a history of animosity with the Sharifs.
While stating the reason for the eleventh-hour announcement, former law minister Rana Sanaullah said that PML-N had suggested its names after due consultation with the other parties. “In view of the options put forward by the opposition, the PML-N decided to consult those parties again and resume the meeting,” he added.
Najam Sethi, while talking to journalists, said this was a temporary job and it was the time to put theory into practice. He said he would talk to the chief election commissioner and tell him that this was his government and whatever he ordered would be complied with. “If my orders are not complied with, I will go home,” he said. Sethi also served as a caretaker federal minister in 1993.
President Asif Ali Zardari felicitated Sethi on his nomination as caretaker chief minister.
The Punjab Assembly was dissolved last week, but the issue of caretaker CM lingered on for a week owing to lack of consensus.
It is important to note that the PML-N members did not raise any objection over the neutrality of Sethi at the meetings of the parliamentary committee. They, however, kept on insisting on the selection of one of their candidates on the plea that all the opposition parties except PPP and PML-Q had agreed over their names.
The PPP team, on the other hand, expressed reservations over the names recommended by the government. Thus, all the three meetings ended over deadlock on the issue.
Zulfiqar Gondal, Shaukat Basra and Zaheeruddin Ahmad were part of the parliamentary committee from the opposition side while Rana Sana Ullah, Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman and Iqbal Channar were the nominees of the Punjab government, who took part in the deliberations for three consecutive days.