LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) named Dr Hasan Askari as caretaker chief minister of Punjab.
The ECP nominated the analyst and professor as caretaker Punjab chief minister after a parliamentary committee failed to reach a consensus over the proposed candidates.
Dr Hassan Askari is a Pakistani political scientist and military analyst, noted for his work in comparative politics, nuclear weapons and the country’s domestic policy.
Speaking to media after his appointment, Dr Askari said, “No party should worry over the transparency of the upcoming election.”
“We will ensure that free and fair elections are held,” he asserted.
The caretaker Punjab chief minister further vowed, “I will not use my position for wrong means.”
Responding to PML-N’s criticism regarding his appointment to the post, Dr Askari said, “They have a right to express reservations and it does not affect me if they challenge my appointment.”
“I will fulfil my constitutional responsibility,” he added.
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.
Speaking to the media after the parliamentary committee meeting, PTI leader and former opposition leader Mehmood-ur-Rasheed said, “We had suggested dropping a name each from our list of proposed candidates. However, PML-N was adamant on appointing Pakistan Navy former chief Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah to the post.”
“But we rejected the name of the former chief of Pakistan Navy as he has no administrative experience and we want someone to overlook the province not a marine exercise,” Rasheed said.
The former opposition leader further said that defence analyst Dr Hassan Askari, who has been suggested for the post by PTI, is “neutral and intelligent. He not only criticises PML-N’s policies but PTI’s as well.”
However, the former opposition leader lamented that owing to PML-N’s ‘inflexible’ attitude the matter will now be decided by the ECP.
Earlier, Punjab government and opposition had agreed to appoint Nasir Mahmood Khosa as the province’s caretaker chief minister but later Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf withdrew his nomination after receiving “severe reaction” from party workers.
In the second phase of the negotiations, Shehbaz nominated former Pakistan Navy chief Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, former DG Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan, Justice (retd) Sahir Ali and former IG Punjab Tariq Saleem Dogar for the post, while Rasheed presented the names of Orya Maqbool Jan, Yaqub Izhar, and Askari.
PML-N expresses reservations
PML-N expressed reservations over the appointment of Dr Askari as caretaker Punjab chief minister.
“We have reservations with Dr Askari as he is very vocal against PML-N,” party leader Rana Sanaullah said while speaking to media.
Sanaullah, who was among three leaders representing PML-N in a parliamentary committee which failed to reach a consensus over the proposed candidates for the post, continued, “Dr Askari has always targeted our party.”
“He does not believe in democracy and cannot be expected to ensure work is done on merit and without bias,” the PML-N leader added.
The former law minister further said, “We have issued a written statement over reservations on Dr Askari’s appointment and we can challenge it.”
Dr Askari’s profile
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 andThe military and politics in Pakistan: 1947 – 1997 among others.