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Appointment of caretaker chief ministers in Pakistan for holding elections-2018
There are four provinces in Pakistan namely, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. While the five-year constitutional terms of the Pakistan's National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly ended on May 31, 2018, the terms of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies had completed earlier on May 28, 2018.

Since elections for the provincial assemblies of Pakistan are due to be held on July 25, 2018 along with the general elections for the country's National Assembly, caretaker chief ministers have also been appointed to hold transparent and fair elections in their respective provinces.

While Murad Ali Shah has been selected as a consensual caretaker chief minister of Sindh; Justice (retd) Dost Mohammad Khan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Prof Hasan Askari of Punjab; and Alauddin Marri of Balochistan were appointed caretaker chief ministers of their respective provinces by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) due to absence of consensus amongst the ruling-opposition politicians of their provinces.

Sindh's chief minister Murad Ali Shah and opposition leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan had selected (Karachi, May 31, 2018) Fazlur Rehman as caretaker chief minister of Sindh province. Rehman had served as Chief Secretary of Sindh from 2007 to 2010. Earlier he had also served as Sindh's Attorney General. On June 2, 2018, he was administrated the oath of office by Sindh Governor Mohmmad Zubair. Fazlur Rehman while serving as Chief Secretary of Sindh had, however, faced allegations of corruption and having illegal links with corrupt politicians and land mafias of the Sindh province.

With regards to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Justice (retd) Dost Mohammad Khan has been appointed (June 5, 2018) as caretaker chief minister of the province by the ECP from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He took oath of office on June 6, 2018. Initially the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the opposition leaders had failed to select a caretaker chief minister. Then a six-member parliamentary committee constituted by the provincial Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and comprising of Shah Farman; Atif Khan and Mehmood Khan of PTI; Noor Saleem Khan; Mehmood Khan Betani and Mufti Fazal Ghafoor of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) representing the opposition was constituted (May, 2018) to resolve the matter, which also failed to reach a consensus on the issue.

Justice Khan is a former (1 February 2014 to 20 March 2018) senior justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Born in Bannu in 1950 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Justice Khan had begun his career as a lawyer in 1976 and then served in lower and high courts. From 10 September 2003 to 16 November 2011 he served as a judge in the Peshawar High Court then from 17 November 20011 to 31 January 2014, as Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court. He also served as a Supreme Court judge from 1 February 2014 to 20 March 2018.

Meanwhile, appointment of a caretaker chief minister for Punjab remained a controversial issue between Imran Khan's PTI and Nawaz Sharif's PML(N). A leading educationist and political analyst Prof Hasan Askari was named (June 7, 2018) as the caretaker chief minister for Punjab by the ECP, as Punjab's ruling and opposition leaders and the concerned committee of the provincial assembly had failed to arrive at any decision on selecting a consensus caretaker chief minister.

However, before Prof Askari's appointment, Punjab's former chief secretary Nasir Mehmood Khan Khosa was named (May 28, 2018, Lahore) as the province's caretaker chief minister. Khosa's name was proposed by Imran Khan-led PTI on which the ruling PML(N) had agreed upon. However, later on, PTI withdrew (May 30, 2018) Khosa's name saying that the party had made a mistake by suggesting the name in some confusion. Later, Khosa also excused (May 31, 2018) himself from taking over as Punjab's caretaker chief minister citing PTI's sudden withdrawal of support for his nomination. Khosa had also criticized PTI for making him a controversial figure in the media.

On the other hand Nawaz Sharif-led PML(N) rejected Prof Askari's selection as caretaker chief minister of Punjab alleging (June 7, 2018) that Prof Askari was not a non-partisan nominee and holding of free and fair elections was not possible under him. PML(N)'s leaders, including former Prime Minister Abbasi described Prof Askari's appointment as "pre-poll rigging". Prof Askari, however, refuted PML(N)'s charges against him and took over as caretaker chief minister of Punjab on June 8, 2018. Prof Askari also claimed that his opinions and views were unbiased. He also ensured holding free and fair elections in the province.

Prof Hasan Askari is professor of political science and has over three decades of teaching experience in Pakistan's various universities as well as in USA and Germany. He has written 88 research papers on various national and international issues related to politics and military. Prof Askari has also written seven books and over 1800 articles and political commentaries on various subjects related to international politics, prominently on South Asian affairs; Pakistan's domestic and foreign policy and security affairs; Afghanistan and Central Asia and the Middle East. He has attended over 125 national and international conferences and had been member of Prime Minister's entourage to foreign visits in 2011 and 2012. In 2010 he was conferred with "Sitara-i-Imtiaz" by the President of Pakistan.

ECP also named (June 7, 2018) Alauddin Marri as the caretaker chief minister of Balochistan after the ruling and opposition parties failed to choose a consensus candidate. Marri does not have any political affiliation. He is prominent businessman and son of former bureaucrat Ghulam Moheyuddin Marri. Graduating from Balochistan University, Marri has served as chairman of the Pakistan European Business Council of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He is a prominent social worker and is considered close to former Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, who remained in office from 13 January 2018 to 7 June 2018 and is a prominent leader of the Balochistan Awami Party (BNP). BNP was formed in March 2018 by some dissident leaders of PML(N) and PML(Q).

Notably, selection of caretaker provincial chief ministers was marred with delay and controversies. Out of the four caretaker chief ministers, three were selected by the Election Commission of Pakistan, which points towards the prevailing unhealthy political trends before the elections are held on July 25, 2018. Punjab province, which is most populous and has the maximum number of assembly seats in the country had a rough process of selecting a caretaker chief minister by the Election Commission of Pakistan to the extent that former Prime Minister Abbasi feared that elections in Punjab had already been rigged by the Election Commission by appointing inter alia a controversial caretaker chief minister.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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