New Pakistan PM may take oath by mid-March
New Pakistan prime minister is likely to oath of the office between March 12 and 15, however, reports have started pouring in that the leading political parties, which negotiating for a coalition government in Islamabad, have yet not agreed on some important issues.
"The Election Commission may notify the names of newly elected national and provincial assembly members on March 1 (today) while the independent legislators-elect will have to decide to join a party of their liking or otherwise between March 2 and 4," the information minister told a private television channel. "After this, the reserved seats of women and minorities will be allotted to the political parties on the basis of proportional representation," he told Geo TV.
Memon said that newly elected members of the National Assembly would take oath on March 5 while speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly would be elected through secret balloting on March 6 or 7. He said that names of Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Yousaf Raza Gillani were under considering for the office of the prime minister. However, he added, it was prerogative of the majority party in the National Assembly to nominate its candidate for the office of the prime minister.
"A new happening will help settle the dust on the political horizon of the country next week," the information minister said in response to a question. "President Pervez Musharraf will not exercise any power other than those vested in him by the constitution and will extend full cooperation to the Parliament, elected by people of the country, for making Pakistan a stable and prosperous country," he maintained.
Memon said that after election of the speaker and deputy speaker, the maiden session of the National Assembly would be adjourned and the president would ask the majority party to nominate its candidate for the office of the prime minister. He said the president would summon the second session of the National Assembly, probably in the second week of March, for ascertainment of the nominee for the office of prime minister.
On the other hand, a leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain Benazir Bhutto, which enjoys majority in the newly elected National Assembly, hinted that they would not allow the second largest party -- Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif -- to adopt a selective approach in formation of the government.
"We will not allow the PML-N to be selective in formation of the government," reports quoted an unnamed PPP leader as saying at a time when the top leadership of the two parties is engaged in hectic activities for formation of governments in the centre and provinces.
The PML-N has refused to claim share in the coalition government in Islamabad but it is insisting on formation of the government in the Punjab, the largest province of the country. The PML-N got votes in the name of restoration of the deposed judges but a clause in the 17th constitutional amendment is a hurdle in the way of its top leader, Nawaz Sharif, to become prime minister of the country for third tenure.
Another major issue for the PML-N is President Musharraf, who had toppled government of Sharif on October 12, 1999 and had arrested him, and the PML-N now wants to oust Musharraf from the Presidency. Sharif's party needs two-thirds majority in the Parliament and hence support of the PPP to achieve its stated objectives but these issues are not on the priority list of the PPP because it did not get votes on the basis of these issues.
"The day the PML-N will get these issues settled, PPP leader Asif Zardari will have to deal with a changed Sharif, as he will not only emerge as victor in the eyes of his voters but will also satisfy his ego by achieving the objectives he is listing at each and every forum ever since he entered the electoral race," a political analyst commented, seeking anonymity.
"The next objective of Sharif will be preparations for next elections with the government in the largest province of the country under his control," he added, pointing out that Sharif has been repeatedly predicting two to three elections in the country in the next two years.
Referring to the benefits of government in the Punjab province, the analyst said that the PML-N has already attracted 70 per cent of independent newly elected legislators while preparations are going on for moving no-trust motions against heads of various local governments in the province.
According to sources in the PPP, Sharif is anxious to reap the fruits of control over the Punjab administration and by not taking share in the federal government he wants the PPP to take some unwelcome decisions in the centre, including increase in the petroleum prices. They said that hike in the petroleum prices is imminent and it would unleash a new wave of inflation, annoying the masses with the PPP.
The PPP sources said that other issues, which the federal government would need to deal with, would be Islamabad's role in the war on terror, demands for provincial autonomy and division of resources, steps to eliminate extremism and establish peace and measures to overcome shortages of gas, water and electricity. They said that the PPP would certainly have to take some unpopular decisions in this regard.
"If the PML-N stayed away from the federal government, all the unpopular decisions would affect the popularity of the PPP alone," said a PPP leader, who wanted not to be identified. "In a coalition, the partners should equally share the profits and losses but the PML-N wants to avoid responsibilities in the centre," he commented.
However, the situation will become clearer with formation of new governments in the centre and four provinces during the month of March.