Asma Jehangir - a veteran activist against controversial laws, subjugation of women, suppression of minorities, highhandedness of state institutions, and dictators and dictatorial mindsets - is seen by some political players as unsuitable for the office of caretaker prime minister.
There had been speculation for quite some time that she was being considered for the slot. Last week, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz included her name in a list of seven probable candidates. The reaction from religious groups and rightwing political parties was negative. They believe she represents anti-Islam forces in Pakistan.
Imran Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf, also expressed "severe reservations" against Asma Jehangir. "She has a history of opposing the PTI and has given statements against it. She is closely aligned with the Pakistan People's Party. She has shown continuous disrespect for the judiciary. We therefore do not think that she fits the criteria," he said during a press conference.
"I don't know why they put my name on the list," Asma Jehangir said in the aftermath of the controversy that she did not choose to become part of. "I was not consulted at all."
Known as a liberal icon in Pakistan, she has stood against all forms of dictatorship and authoritarianism. She is also among the few lawyers who criticized Supreme Court judges for their so-called judicial activism.
The president told an aide jokingly that he would prefer Ishaq Dar over Raza Rabbani
Sources in Pakistan People's Party said President Asif Zardari was pleased to hear that the PML-N had proposed her name. He believed that the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association would be suitable for the slot.
"She is liberal and had good rapport with Mohtarma (Benazir Bhutto)," a senior PPP leader said. "She will not succumb to the pressure of the powerful judiciary. And she will not take dictation from the army."
He admitted her chances of becoming the caretaker prime minister were remote. If the PPP would insist on her name, he said, the PML-N would back off.
The PPP will insist on Husain Haroon
Analysts and politicians name several other candidates that the government and the opposition might agree on.
Pakistan's former representative to the United Nations just appeared as one likely choice of the ruling coalition. In recent meetings, the coalition partners have agreed on his name.
Sources in the party said Haroon had friendly ties with President Zardari, who appointed him to the United Nations primarily because he was not controversial despite having a political affiliation.
An heir of the Haroon family, he previously served as the Sindh Assembly speaker. Sources said the ruling party would insist on his name during the dialogue with the opposition.
The successful Pakistani banker and former finance minister Shaukat Tareen is also among the list of probables. He enjoys the goodwill of the ruling coalition and the mainstream opposition parties despite his association with General Pervez Musharraf in the past.
Sources privy to the discussions said the PPP may include his name in the list mainly for leverage during the negotiations.
Achakzai or Mengal:
Because of their persistent criticism of the PPP government, two senior Baloch ethnic leaders - Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Attaullah Mengal - are likely choices of the PML-N.
While Mengal had expressed his inability to do the job when his name first surfaced, Achakzai seemed more than interested despite forming a coalition with the PML-N. But there is a catch.
The sources said the military establishment would not accept him because of his stance on state intervention in Balochistan's affairs.
"I don't know why they put my name on the list," said Asma Jehangir
Raja Zafarul Haq, the PML-N chairman, said the two names that the opposition will suggest will both be from smaller provinces, to create a sense of participation.
He said a caretaker prime minister should have great administrative skills and undisputed integrity. "The transition should take place in a manner envisaged in the Constitution of Pakistan."
Justice Ajmal Mian or Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid:
The PML-N is also considering the names of two former Supreme Court judges - Justice Ajmal Mian and Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid.
Both of them belong to the Sindh province and are considered largely non-controversial. But their critics believe they lean towards Nawaz Sharif's party.
Rabbani or Dar:
President Zardari is not likely to permit veteran PPP leader Senator Raza Rabbani have the honor of becoming caretaker prime minister at this critical juncture.
The ruling party may include Shaukat Tareen in the list for leverage
Rabbani was among the chief architects of the landmark 18th constitutional amendment, and is liked by the opposition.
Sources in the PPP said the president told an aide jokingly that he would rather accept Senator Ishaq Dar. Zardari believes Rabbani is unpredictable.
Siddiqul Farooq, a PML-N spokesman, ruled out the possibility that the PML-N would name Senator Dar for the office. He said Dar would have an important role to play in the PML-N's election campaign. "Having him as caretaker prime minister would mean the party would lose an indispensible commander."
After the 18th Amendment in which Ishaq Dar also played a key role, Article 224 of the Constitution makes it mandatory for the government to seek approval of the opposition leader in the National Assembly before appointing anyone as caretaker prime minister.
"The care-taker Prime Minister shall be selected by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing National Assembly," it says.
If the government and the opposition fail to reach a consensus, the Election Commission of Pakistan will make the selection. But since the PPP and the PML-N do not intend to surrender the privilege, analysts say the PML-N will make the final call and the PPP will bow.