Najam Sethi Chosen as Caretaker CM of Pak Punjab

M Zulqernain/Lahore
Najam Sethi Chosen as Caretaker CM of Pak Punjab
Senior journalist Najam Sethi was today chosen as the caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous and politically crucial province, ahead of the general election scheduled for May 11.

Sethi was nominated for the slot by the Pakistan Peoples Party, the main opposition party in Punjab, and its allies.

The PML-N, which ruled the province till recently, said tonight that it agreed on Sethi's candidature.

Senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah announced his party's decision to reporters after a meeting of a bipartisan committee of legislators.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif did not agree with the opposition's choice.

The matter was then referred to the committee, which reached a consensus after three days of deliberations.

If the PML-N and PPP had failed to agree on a candidate by midnight, the issue would have been referred to the Election Commission.

"We hope that like his impartial analysis, Mr Sethi will remain impartial in holding free and fair polls in this province of 90 million people," said Sanaullah, the former Punjab Law Minister.

Sethi, who hosts the programme Apas Ki Baat on Geo News, told the channel: "I will ensure the holding of free and fair polls and that good candidates are elected".

He said that people should not expect the caretaker government in Punjab to bring about changes in their lives as that would be the job of the politicians who would be elected in the upcoming polls.

Sethi said that he would not host his talk show during his tenure as caretaker Chief Minister and that he would work with a small cabinet.

According to a source in the PML-N, party chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif had reservations about Sethi.

However, they realised that Sethi would have a better chance than other candidates if the matter was referred to the Election Commission and decided to agree on his candidature, the source said.

"Sethi also called Nawaz Sharif today and ensured him that he would remain impartial if the PML-N backs him," the source told PTI.

Sethi was earlier the editor of the Daily Times and Daily Aajkal newspapers. He also owns Vanguard Books, a publishing house, and a chain of bookstores.

In 1999, during Nawaz Sharif's tenure as premier, Sethi was arrested following an interview with the BBC on government corruption, and detained for almost a month without charge.

With the selection of Sethi, the process of installing caretaker Chief Ministers in all four provinces of Pakistan has been completed.
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