Ashraf proposes names for caretaker PM ahead of polls

Islamabad: Two days before the PPP-led government completes its term, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf today proposed the names of former finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, economist Ishrat Hussain and retired judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso for the post of caretaker premier.

"The Prime Minister has proposed the names in response to the letter by Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan," a spokesman for the Prime Minister's House said.

Khan, a senior leader of the main opposition PML-N party, had earlier proposed retired judges Nasir Aslam Zahid, Shakirullah Jan and Sindhi Awami Tehrik chief Rasool Bakhsh Palejo as candidates to lead the interim administration that will oversee the general election expected to be held sometime in May.

Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who has taught at Harvard and Cambridge universities and worked for the World Bank, had resigned as Finance Minister on February 19 amidst growing speculation that he would play a key role in the caretaker set-up.

But Shaikh is not acceptable to the PML-N party as he is perceived by some as being too close to the military because he had served as a minister under former dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Shaikh has also been criticised for failing to tackle weak economic growth, a huge budget deficit and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

He was unable to push through reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, including the widening of the tax base.

Ishrat Hussain is a leading banker and economist who served as head of the State Bank of Pakistan, the country's central bank, from December 1999 to December 2005.

Mir Hazar Khan Khoso retired as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Balochistan in 1991.

The National Assembly will be dissolved after it completes its term on March 16.

Under the rules, the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition have to select the head of the caretaker government.

If they fail to achieve consensus within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, they will forward two names to a bipartisan parliamentary committee to decide on a candidate within three days.

If the committee, which will comprise four members each from the treasury and opposition benches, also fails to choose a consensus candidate, the names will be referred to the Chief Election Commissioner for a final decision within two days.

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