ISLAMABAD/Lahore - The Election Commission Thursday appointed Professor Hassan Askari and Allaudin Marri caretaker chief ministers of Punjab and Balochistan, completing the process of appointment of interim CMs in all the four provinces.
But Prof Askari’s appointment has generated a controversy as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz rejected his selection, accusing him of being strongly biased against them.
Addressing a press conference along with some other central leaders of the former ruling party, ex-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Askari’s appointment has made the election in Punjab controversial.
The former ruling party requested the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to review its decision, but the commission rejected their assertions, saying that the professor was appointed on merit and as per law.
In a statement the ECP said that four names were received by the commission for the post of Punjab caretaker CM under Article 224 of the constitution. The ECP members unanimously approved Askari’s name under the constitution and law, it said.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which had proposed the name of Prof Askari, also came to defend his appointment saying that PML-N reservations about him carry no weight.
Responding to the criticism, Prof Askari promised that he would not misuse his new position and vowed to hold fair and transparent elections.
“The ECP has appointed me caretaker CM in line with the constitution... No party should be troubled,” he said.
“The PML-N are expressing their reservations, that is their right. They can say whatever they like about me,” he added.
“If they wish to challenge my appointment, they can. It makes no difference to me,” he said, adding: “I will complete my constitutional responsibilities.”
The announcements of the appointments of Professor Hassan Askari and Allaudin Marri were made following two separate meetings of the commission in Islamabad on Thursday. The appointments have been made in accordance with article 224 of the constitution.
Announcing appointment of Prof Askari as Punjab caretaker, ECP Additional Secretary Akhtar Nazir said that all members unanimously decided in his favour.
The name of Askari was recommended by the opposition in Punjab whilst that of Allaudin Marri by the Balochistan government.
What led to selection of Askari?
The process of selection of Punjab caretaker CM had been referred to the ECP after a parliamentary committee in Lahore failed to reach consensus.
The PML-N had floated the names of two candidates — retired Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah and retired Justice Sair Ali — while the PTI proposed Prof Dr Hasan Askari and Ayaz Amir as possible choices.
PTI’s Mehmoodur Rasheed claimed that during the parliamentary committee meeting, the PML-N team had expressed reservations on the candidature of Ayaz Amir while the PTI raised objections over the candidature of Zakaullah.
Rasheed said that they had insisted that the committee should reach a consensus on Dr Askari as he was a non-controversial personality.
“The deadlock reached a level that the committee was not even able to shortlist one candidate each supported by the two parties,” Rasheed said.
The PML-N, it is learnt, had asserted that it was PTI’s turn to accept one of the candidates pitched by them.
PML-N’s rejection of caretaker
Senior PML-N leaders including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, ex-railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah held a press conference to express reservations about Askari’s appointment as Punjab caretaker chief minister.
Askari’s appointment has made the election in Punjab controversial, said Abbasi, who was in Lahore to participate in the parliamentary party board meeting. He added that the ECP should not have picked a “partisan” person for the position of caretaker chief minister.
Rejecting Askari’s appointment for the position, Abbasi said Askari was not impartial and had been criticising the PML-N in TV shows and writing articles in newspapers against his party.
“His tweets and writings are evidence of his partiality,” said Khaqan Abbasi adding that “this man cannot be neutral and this act of the ECP is casting doubt about the fair election”.
“The names are before you. You can see our names and the names presented by the rival party and everything will be clear to you,” Abbais further said.
Aksari is also in favour of delay in the elections, the former prime minister alleged. He said they wanted election should be held on time and without any delay and urged the ECP to refrain from any act which could cast doubt about the fairness of the election.
He also referred to a letter issued by the ECP wherein he claimed the PM was stopped from doing work. The elections should not be transparent per se they must also look to be transparent, the former PM said.
Ahsen Iqbal while addressing the presser said if the election is made controversial, a political crisis will emerge after the polls that will be “poisonous” for the country.
He said he is calling on the people of Pakistan to “protect the vote” after the ECP verdict. “We can’t allow anyone to steal the mandate of the public,” he vowed.
Khwaja Saad Rafiq said they respected Dr Hassan Askari as he was very learned person but his political views were clear. “He is [an open] supporter of PTI,” he said.
He appealed to Dr Askari that he himself should stay away from holding the office and should himself withdraw his name.
Speaking earlier, Sanaullah said it was unfortunate that an individual who had “never even run a school” would now be responsible for running a province.
He alleged that Askari does not believe in democracy and has “always criticised” the PML-N and its leadership. “He cannot be expected to work impartially and on the basis of merit,” the PML-N leader alleged.
“We have expressed our reservations in writing over his appointment,” he said, adding that the party could challenge Askari’s actions.
PTI’s support for new CM
PTI leader Mian Mahmoodur Rashid, who was leader of the opposition in the previous assembly, says PML-N reservations about Dr Hasan Askari as caretaker Punjab chief minister were baseless.
In an interview, he said Dr Askari was appointed in accordance with the procedure laid down in the constitution, and the election commission has picked him after the failure of the PML-N and PTI leaders to reach consensus.
The PML-N, he alleged, wanted to create confusion in the country. “They are ridiculing the judiciary and are insulting the army. Today they have also expressed reservations about the ECP”. The PTI leader said the PML-N knows that its defeat in the election is written on the wall.
Who is Askari?
Prof Hasan Askari is a political scientist and analyst with experience working in international think tanks, universities and both local and foreign media. He is recognised for his work in comparative politics, nuclear weapons, and country’s domestic policy.
He has become a known face on television due to his role as a political commentator on current affairs on both private and state-owned TV channels.
He has a number of publications to his name including more than 1,800 op-eds and comment pieces in domestic and international newspapers and magazines and has spent over 35 years teaching and supervising research at the post-graduate level.
He has taught Master’s-level courses at Pakistani, German, and American universities on South Asian affairs, comparative politics, international relations, Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policy, civil-military relations, the Middle East and the Gulf region.
He was awarded a Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 2010.
Prof Askari received a Bachelor’s in Political Science and English Literature in 1968 from Punjab University, an MA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979, and a PhD in Political Science from UPenn a year later.
He has also received an MPhil on the basis of a published thesis on South Asia and comparative government.
Selection of Balochistan caretaker
ECP Additional Secretary Akhtar Nazir announced selection of Allaudin Marri as Balochistan caretaker CM while speaking to the press in Islamabad. He said his selection was also made unanimously by members of the commission.
Marri’s name had been shortlisted as a nominee for the post, along with Sardar Shaukat Aziz Popalzai, Allauddin Marri (both proposed by the government), and Aslam Bhootani and Jahangir Ashraf Qazi (recommended by the opposition).
The process of selection of caretaker chief minister of Balochistan had been referred to the ECP after the government-nominated members in Quetta did not turn up at a meeting of the parliamentary committee.
Profile of Alauddin
Alauddin Marri, a businessman and social worker from Mastung, is the son of former bureaucrat Ghulam Moheyuddin Marri and is not a member of any political party.
He was born in Quetta in 1979. He received his primary education from Tameer-i-Nau Public School in Quetta and his secondary education from the Tameer-i-Nau Public College. He graduated from Balochistan University.
He has served as chairman of the Pakistan European Business Council of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Marri had earlier this year filed nomination papers for the recent Senate election as an independent candidate, but later withdrew them.
PML-N cries foul over Askari’s selection
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