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Pakistan: PM Shehbaz Sharif, Opposition Leader Raja Riaz To Finalise Name Of Caretaker Prime Minister Today

Pakistan's National Assembly has been dissolved and the country is constitutionally mandated to have elections within three months. A caretaker government will run the country until elections are held and new government takes over.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Opposition leader Raja Riaz are locked in a race against time to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister and submit it to the president. 

After Sharif dissolved the Pakistani National Assembly on Wednesday, President Arif Alvi wrote to him and Riaz to press that they have time until Saturday (three days) to finalise and submit the name of a caretaker prime minister. 

The Pakistan National Assembly's tenure was ending on Saturday, but the early dissolution on Wednesday means the country has to hold elections in 90 days. If the assembly completed its full tenure on Saturday, then elections would have to be held within 60 days. As the assembly stands dissolved, a caretaker government would take over the country and will manage the affairs until elections are held. 

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Sharif told media on Friday that he and Riaz would finalise the name by Saturday and the former coalition parties would also be taken on board for political consultations, reported PTI. They held their first meeting on Thursday. 

“Coalition partners will be taken into confidence over the matter before taking a final decision,” said Sharif. 

Sharif said that he was expected to meet Riaz on Friday but was unable to do so due to some of his commitments, reported PTI, which added that Sharif said they would meet on Saturday. 

In a letter to both Sharif and Riaz, Alvi informed them that under Article 224A they are supposed to propose a name for interim prime minister within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, reported PTI. Sharif said he was disappointed to receive the letter. 

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"Sharif said the Constitution provided eight days for the appointment of the caretaker premier after the dissolution of the National Assembly (NA), the lower house of Parliament," reported PTI.

The Pakistan constitution mandates that the premier and the outgoing Opposition leader in the national assembly have three days to decide the name of the caretaker prime minister, notes PTI, adding that in case the two fail to agree on a name, the matter would be referred to a parliamentary committee. 

"If the committee fails to make any decision, then the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will have two days to choose the caretaker prime minister from the list of names shared with the commission," notes PTI.

Sharif organised a dinner on Friday for his coalition partners and used the occasion for consultation on the issue of the caretaker prime minister, reported PTI, adding that the parties gave full authority to him to choose a name for the caretaker premier slot.

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said Bhutto-Zardari had conveyed to Sharif that his party would accept the premier’s nominee for the caretaker slot, reported PTI.

The Pakistan Peoples Party has proposed the names of former diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani and former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jilani while Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) put forward the name of Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori, reported PTI, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has kept its cards close to the chest, keeping everyone guessing about its candidate.

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One of the reasons for the delay in deciding the name the caretaker prime minister is believed to be the PML-N’s desire to see its own man in office, reported Dawn newspaper. 

PTI further reported that some in political circles believe that Sharif wants to stay in office till August 14 so he could attend the flag-hoisting ceremony on Independence Day, after which a caretaker premier will take an oath.

A senior leader of the PML-N told Dawn that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was “one of the strongest candidates”.

“The Senate chairman can be the dark horse,” said this leader to Dawn while referring to Defence Minister Khawaja Asif who had first used the term “dark horse”.

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Other possible contenders are former finance ministers Hafeez Sheikh and Ishaq Dar, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad and ex-justice Tassaduq Jilani, reported PTI.

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