ECP turns down PML-N objections over Hassan Askari’s appointment as Caretaker Chief Minister

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday thoroughly turned down objections raised by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) over Hassan Askari’s appointment as caretaker Punjab Chief Minister (CM).

As per details garnered, ECP has also rejected PML-N’s demand to review the appointment of Hassan Askari.

Inside-aware further revealed that ECP makes decision purely on merit and does not take dictation from anyone. While expressing exasperation over PML-N’s objections, officials of elections watchdog urged politicians not to lambaste department unnecessarily.

The officials went on to say that ECP had made decision after political outfits failed to reach on consensus pertaining to appointments of caretaker chief ministers.

Earlier, former premier Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi apprised attendants that Ayaz Amir and Hassan Askari were Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) nominees for the caretaker Punjab CM. “Opinion of both [Amir and Askari] can be read on newspapers. The matter of appointment of caretaker Punjab CM will make whole electoral process doubtful”, claimed Abbasi while asserting at the same time that a neutral caretaker set up was mandatory to ensure transparent elections.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has expressed reservations over the appointment of Dr Hasan Askari as caretaker Punjab chief minister, saying that he was an impartial figure who could jeopardise the electoral process.

Addressing a press conference in the federal capital, former premier Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi apprised attendants that Ayaz Amir and Hassan Askari were Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) nominees for the caretaker Punjab CM.

“Opinion of both [Amir and Askari] can be read on newspapers. The matter of appointment of caretaker Punjab CM will make whole electoral process doubtful”, claimed Abbasi while asserting at the same time that a neutral caretaker set up was mandatory to ensure transparent elections.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that it was unfortunate that Askari was selected as he was a vocal critic of the PML-N, and his criticism of political figures is well-known.

He said that it was necessary that an impartial individual was chosen to conduct free, fair and transparent elections. “It is unfortunate that Election Commission nominated Hasan Askari. It is necessary to choose an impartial figure to conduct free and fair elections.”

He said that Hasan Askari’s name was suggested by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and the professor has indicated in his columns that elections can be delayed, referred to martial laws, and stated that elections should not be held in the extreme summers.

“It seems Hasan Askari is not well-versed with the constitution. This proves that he is not impartial,” he said adding that the parliamentary committee had sent Askari’s record to the ECP.

Calling on the ECP to reconsider its decision, he said that reservations will be raised if any an individual is selected who thoughts and mindset can be judged from his columns.

He said the nomination of caretaker Punjab chief can affect the entire electoral process, and this implies that election process will not be free, fair and transparent.

Ahsan Iqbal said that it was imperative that elections are held on July 25 as scheduled, as any delay will create an environment of uncertainty in the country.

“There will be a political crisis if elections are not free and fair which will be consequences,” he said. He said PML-N chief has given the slogan to ‘give respect to the vote,’ but now members are instructed to protect the vote.

“We cannot allow them to rob (the people) the right to vote. PML-N member will defend their each single vote,” he said adding that elections should be free and fair.

Khawaja Saad Rafique said they have utmost respect for Hasan Askari, but he cannot be accepted as Punjab caretaker chief minister under any circumstances.

He said that Askari’s opinion about the PML-N was unacceptable, and he had written several columns against them. He hoped that Askari would recuse himself from the position as he was not impartial.

The party sent its reservations to the ECP which categorically rejected all objections. Askari was nominated after the parliamentary committee failed to reach a consensus.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi on Thursday said, holding of fair, free and impartial general elections would be his top priority agenda.

“I have no political agenda,” he added.
Talking to media men at his residence here after his appointment he said, “I will try my best to discharge my duty in an effective manner”.

Answering a question, caretaker chief minister said, his cabinet would be concise and comprised of professional and credible people.

Earlier, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday elected senior analyst Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi as caretaker Punjab Chief Minister.

During a press conference, Additional Secretary ECP, Dr Akhtar Nazeer said that the name was selected after consultation in a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Raza Khan and also attended by all four ECP secretaries.

Additional Secretary ECP, Dr Akhtar Nazeer said the commission had received four names from government and the opposition of Punjab to consider for the position of caretaker CM Punjab.

He said that the decision of nomination of CM Punjab was made after thorough discussion and with consensus by the Commission in its consultative meeting which was and attended by all members of the commission.

He said that Prof Hassan Askari is a famous educationalist and he has longtime affiliation with education sector. He said that being analyst on various TV shows, he proved himself as expert on national and international issues.

He said that the ECP has appointed him under article 224 of Election Act 2017.

On Wednesday, the parliamentary committee meeting ended in deadlock after the government and opposition representatives failed to agree on one name.

Rana Sanaullah, Malik Ahmed Khan, and Khuwaja Imran Nazir represented the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the committee while former opposition leader Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, Sibtain Khan and Shoaib Siddiqui were present from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) side.

The interim CM was appointed in accordance with article 224 of the constitution.

Dr Askari is a renowned political scientist and military analyst who is currently serving as professor emeritus of political science at his alma mater, Punjab University.

He also served as a visiting professor of Pakistan Studies at Columbia University from January 1996 to July 1999.

During 1988 to 1991, Dr Askari served as the Allama Iqbal Professor at Heidelberg University of Germany.

In 2010, the professor was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz.
He has also published a number of books, including Military, State and Society in Pakistan and The military and politics in Pakistan: 1947-1997 among others. – NNI