ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan on Sunday finally chose the government’s nominee, Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, for the slot of caretaker premier with a majority vote of four-one.

The apparently unexpected decision on Khoso’s elevation to premiership came against the probable selection of Dr Ishrat Hussain or Nasir Aslam Zahid, the two respective hot favourites from the government and the opposition sides.

Justice (r) Riaz Kayani was the lone Election Commission member who officially opposed Khoso’s nomination and gave a dissenting note. The chief election commissioner and all the remaining three members voted for the former high court judge.

The ECP on Saturday remained indecisive following a deadlock within its top hierarchy over the issue. Till then, the MEC from Sindh, Justice (r) Roshan Essani, who was in Karachi, strongly supported Dr Ishrat Hussain whereas Justice Riaz Kayani from Punjab and Justice (r) Shehzad Akbar from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa favoured Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid. Justice (r) Fazl-ur-Rehman initially supported Dr Ishrat for caretaker premiership, but later opted for Nasir Aslam Zahid. Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim stayed neutral, according to sources.

However, Sunday saw a high drama. Roshan Essani arrived in Islamabad in the pre-dawn hours. The final day of the ECP’s scheduled meeting on caretaker PM started with the continued deadlock. Riaz Kayani and Shahzad Akbar were all out for Nasir Aslam while Essani sided with Ishrat Hussain. Reportedly, the ice melted when Justice (r) Fazl-ur-Rehman proposed Mir Hazar Khoso’s name, contending that Aslam and Ishrat had become too controversial to be nominated. Rehman’s proposal got Essani’s endorsement, following which Shahzad Akbar also agreed to vote for Khoso. This left the equation in favour of Khoso’s support with a three-one margin since the CEC kept his cards close to his chest till the last moment. After all the four members officially had voted for their respective nominees; three in Khoso and one in Zahid’s favour, the CEC finally went for the majority vote.

“He is obliged to assist us in holding free and fair elections,” Fakhruddin G Ebrahim said, while announcing the caretaker PM’s name. All the names were looked into before making a final pick, he said. “We spent two days, considering who the best is for this slot.” The CEC confirmed the dissenting note of Riaz Kayani against Khoso’s nomination.

In separate letters written to ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, the members of the parliamentary committee from the government and the opposition had voiced reservations against Zahid and Ishrat. The ECP’s decision on Mir Hazar Khan Khoso is seen against the backdrop of this scenario.

Ishrat Hussain and Hazar Khoso were the government’s nominees, while the opposition nominated Nasir Zahid and Rasool Bakhsh Palejo for the caretaker premiership.

In the light of the first and third clauses of Article 224 A, the PM and the leader of the opposition were required to choose caretaker premier in three days, failing which the parliamentary committee on caretaker PM was to decide the matter in three days. Upon its failure, the issue landed in the ECP for a final decision within two days.

The Article 224A’s clauses (1) and (3) read, “In case the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition in the outgoing National Assembly do not agree on any person to be appointed as the caretaker prime minister within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, they shall forward two nominees each to a committee to be immediately constituted by the speaker of the National Assembly, comprising eight members of the outgoing National Assembly or the Senate or both, having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition, to be nominated by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, respectively.

The committee constituted shall finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister within three days of the referral of the matter to it provided that in case of inability of the committee to decide the matter in the aforesaid period, the names of the nominees shall be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan for final decision within two days.”