ISLAMABAD - The much-awaited consultation process between the prime minister and opposition leader in national assembly for the appointment of caretaker PM formally started on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf through a letter to Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan invited him to initiate the process to achieve consensus on the appointment of a caretaker prime minister for the upcoming general elections.

The letter stated that under Article 224 of the constitution, the Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition were to hold consultations for the appointment of a caretaker PM who could uphold national interest and ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country.

PM Raja, in the letter, said the people of Pakistan rightly expected the government to rise to the occasion and agree upon the most suitable person as the caretaker prime minster and pave the way for holding general elections in an impartial, fair and transparent manner.

The PM requested Nisar to propose names of the people, who in his opinion were eminently qualified to be appointed as the care taker PM so that they could arrive at a consensus prior to the dissolution of the national assembly on the expiry of its term.

He noted that in case of their failure, the government would be constrained to proceed further in the matter as per Article 224 (A). He complimented all the political parties, within and outside the parliament, and national institutions for their continued support for the democratic process during the last five years.

As per the constitutional procedure, both the Leader of the House as well as Leader of Opposition in the outgunning national assembly would choose one name with consensus out of four nominated names by each of the two. In case of consensus, the decision would be conveyed to the president who will accordingly notify the nominated person for the appointment as caretaker prime minister.

But if they failed to develop consensus, the matter will be referred to a parliamentary committee to be constituted by NA speaker to decide the issue. The committee, including members from the senate and national assembly, would choose with consensus one form the four names purposed by the Leader of the House and the Leader of Opposition.

And in case the parliamentary committee too fails in evolving a consensus, the matter would automatically be referred to the Chief Election Commissioner, who after due process would notify the appointment of caretaker PM. The would-be caretaker government under the constitution will have mandate to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country within ninety days.