Punjab CM: Imran keeping cards close to his chest

Islamabad: Prime Minister-in-waiting Imran Khan has kept his nominee for the slot of chief minister of Punjab a closely guarded secret as the suspense continues.

He has separately addressed the parliamentary parties of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), but avoided dropping hints at his ultimate choices. It was widely expected that he would formally announce his preferences for Punjab and KP in these deliberations but he didn’t. Two days after speaking to the KP lawmakers-elect, he has named Mehmood Khan, ending the confusion.

About Punjab, he has now indicated that he is bringing a young man in Punjab. Imran Khan sought complete support of the parliamentary party for the “neat, clean and creative” youth he would choose for the majority province and made it clear that none of the names being publicly discussed would be opted for.

Imran Khan faces no problem in nominating his chief minister in Punjab although different lobbies are working to push their favourties. It is quite likely that a dark horse, whose name is not being publicly quoted, will become the final lucky man.

This will be the most crucial nomination because the real political and electoral battleground has been and will be Punjab. Here, Imran Khan’s selection will be required to match and even surpass the exceptional pace of Shahbaz Sharif in delivery and performance. He has stressed that he faces real challenges in Punjab.

The names of Sibtain Khan from Mianwali and another man, Yasir Hamayun Faraz from Chakwal, have been mentioned as the likely appointees. It is no secret that powerful PTI figure Jehangir Tareen has been pushing the name of Abdul Aleem Khan for the position of the chief minister, but a concerted campaign is on against him since he emerged as a candidate.

“The special love of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for me has abruptly revived,” Aleem Khan says as he is being repeatedly summoned by the anti-graft body to answer questions and the NAB remains unsatisfied.

When two days back, Imran Khan addressed the KP parliamentary party, he did not disclose the name of his next chief minister. There were at least three prominent contenders in the race. Former chief minister Pervaiz Khattak was almost out of the run, but he wanted his preference, Mehmood Khan or Shah Farman, to be chosen and was opposed to the one, who is said to be Imran Khan’s recommendation. Given the numerical strength of the PTI, it is in a comfortable position to form government single-handed.

So far, there have been two key nominations – of Imran Khan as the PTI’s obvious candidate for the prime minister, and Mehmood Khan for the position of the KP chief minister. The federal decision was taken during the central parliamentary party meeting.

A high point of these deliberations is that PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi is now in the leading role while Tareen having gone in the background. In roping in all the independent winners for the national and Punjab assemblies, Tareen acted as the main point man while Qureshi was not seen in this game. Since he is disqualified and hence not elected, he has stayed away from the parliamentary party meetings. The tussle between Qureshi and Tareen has often surfaced in the open.

Tareen has said that once he would “make” Imran Khan the prime minister, he would keep himself away from the national scene. Only he can explain what this means. His review petition against the Supreme Court judgment that disqualified him for life is pending disposal.

Apart from the critical decision that Imran Khan will take in choosing his Punjab chief minister, he is also to select a number of figures for other important positions, the most significant being the next president of Pakistan.

After his election as the prime minister, he will recommend four governors as the incumbents have either stepped down and will go as they were appointed by Nawaz Sharif as the premier. Besides, Imran Khan will cherry-pick his federal cabinet not only from his own party but also from the allied parties on their recommendations. Until now, it is clear that Asad Umar will the finance minister but who else be in the cabinet is not known.

Imran Khan wants to keep his federal team small, but given the representation that he will have to give to the coalition partners, it may not be much truncated. The speaker of Punjab has been decided as Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has got this office. However, the deputy speaker is yet to be named. Similarly, a choice has to be made for the same office in KP.

AlamulKhabar Pakistan