Pakistan President Arif Alvi formally dissolved the National Assembly three days ahead of its mandated period following which outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held talks with the Leader of the Opposition on Thursday over the nomination for a caretaker premier to conduct the general elections later this year.
Sharif will continue to perform his duties as the premier until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister.
A notification issued by the Presidential Palace on Wednesday late night said the National Assembly was dissolved under Article 58 of the Constitution.
According to Article 58, if the President fails to dissolve the assembly within 48 hours after the Prime Minister has recommended so, the assembly automatically stands dissolved.
“The Prime Minister’s advice at para 6 of the summary is approved,” President Alvi said in a statement.
“President Dr. Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly. The President dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister under Article 58-1 of the Constitution,” his office posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
On Thursday, Sharif held formal consultations with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Raja Riaz over the nomination for the caretaker premier at the Prime Minister’s House but they failed to reach at a consensus.
After discussion, they decided to meet again on Friday to try to reach a consensus on selecting a name for the caretaker prime minister.
According to a brief statement by the PM Office, the meeting to consult the name of the caretaker prime minister was held in a “cordial environment”.
The prime minister had invited the opposition leader to a meeting regarding the appointment of the caretaker prime minister, as required under the Constitution.
Talking to reporters outside the Prime Minister’s House, Riaz said the hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Sharif was held in a cordial and conducive environment.
“We’ve yet to reach a consensus,” Riaz told reporters. “I will deliberate on the names given by the PM, and similarly, the PM sahib will go through the names given by me âæ a meeting will be held again tomorrow (Friday).”
He, however, refused to provide details but said six names came under discussion during today’s meeting and all of them were “respectable people”.
The two leaders have three days to agree on a name, otherwise, the Speaker of the defunct assembly would appoint an eight-member panel, including four lawmakers each from the treasury and opposition benches, to forge an agreement. Both sides, the prime minister and leader of the opposition, can put forward a maximum of two names for the top post.
The panel has three days to agree and in case it fails, all names considered during its meetings would be sent to the ECP which would appoint one of them as the interim premier within 48 hours.
According to local media reports, three names have been proposed, including two nominations — former diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani and former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jilani — sent by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori, by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Geo TV reported.
However, there’s no public announcement by the Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on the issue, it added.
Riaz, a dissident leader of PTI, is considered close to PML-N and PPP and is expected not to make a show and support the government candidate.
The move to dissolve the NA came as former premier Imran Khan is fighting to overturn a corruption conviction.
Khan, 70, was sentenced to three years in prison by an Islamabad trial court on Saturday in the Toshakhana corruption case for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He was subsequently arrested by the Punjab police from his residence in Lahore.
Khan, who is currently lodged in the Attock Jail, appealed his conviction and the three-year prison sentence in the case by filing a plea through his lawyers at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday.
The NA dissolution comes around a week after the government announced that assemblies would be dissolved on August 9, three days ahead of its mandated period, following which elections are to be held within 90 days.
The polls are expected to be delayed for a couple of months as new census results have been approved, which makes it a constitutional obligation to carry out delimitation before elections.
The ECP is bound to carry out delimitation within 120 days and then announce the election schedule.
Though it is technically possible to expedite the process and determine delimitation of constituencies in minimum time and then go for elections within 90 days, it is not clear if the ECP would follow the deadline as it has a valid reason to overshoot the deadline.
The outgoing assembly was the 15th National Assembly which began its five-year journey on August 13, 2018, with the election of a speaker and deputy speaker. The assembly was elected after an election held on July 25, 2018.