The nominations are out, and the leading party seems poised for a showdown with the judiciary.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari nominated late Wednesday night former health and textile minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin as the candidate for the new prime minister and former water and power minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as the covering candidate.
Both candidates have had friction with the apex court recently.
Ashraf, who faces serious corruption allegations, was among those against whom the chief justice had ordered legal proceedings in the rental power plants case. Shahabuddin, meanwhile, was alleged to have approved the unauthorised drug quotas that led to the ephedrine scandal involving former premier’s son Ali Musa Gilani.
According to APP, however, Shahabuddin took up the ephedrine quota case himself in the National Assembly much before it reared its head.
“I have directed the Secretary Ministry of Health to constitute a joint investigation team of two credible and competent officers … the team will submit a report of the two firms which were given illegal quota of ephedrine,” APP quoted Shahabuddin as telling lawmakers on the floor of the house on February 4, 2011.
Shahabuddin will file his nomination papers before the 2pm deadline on Thursday (today).
The speaker will scrutinise the nominations in the presence of the candidates, their proposers and seconders within an hour after the nominations are filed to her office.
Voting for the new prime minister will take place at 5:30 pm on Friday.
Under the Constitution, only a Muslim member of the National Assembly can contest for the office of prime minister, and has to be elected by a majority of the 342-member lower house of parliament, which comes to 172 votes. The PPP-led coalition enjoys a comfortable majority to secure the votes for its candidate to get elected.
Earlier in the day, a defiant but poised President Zardari told lawmakers from his party that he would see the party through what he termed was a fresh wave of conspiracy.
“Don’t worry. I know very well how to deal with these challenges. Have trust in me and I will lead you out of the crisis,” President Zardari is said to have told a meeting of the PPP parliamentary party.
The huddle of PPP lawmakers from the National Assembly, however, did not discuss any name for the top slot – even though it was reported that the meeting was called for this purpose. However, the president took the opportunity to galvanise his party.
PPP officials said the parliamentary party had empowered the president to pick the candidate of his choice and assured him their complete support.
“Whosoever you select, appoint, or nominate for the position, we will support your choice,” a senior member said, with other lawmakers raising their hands to endorse his suggestion.
Responding to lawmakers’ expression of trust on him, President Zardari promised them he would choose a person best suited to the country and to the party. “I will choose the best amongst us … I will never let you down,” a legislator quoted the president as saying.
The meeting, at President Zardari’s official residence, lasted for almost three hours. During the gathering, the president and several senior members of PPP, showered generous praise on Gilani for his ‘relentless’ services and ‘unmatched’ sacrifices for the party.
“He is close to our hearts,” Zardari said while talking about Gilani. The president then held the former premier’s arm and said: “You are our lifetime prime minister.”
Shahabuddin beat water and power minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and religious affairs minister Syed Khursheed Shah to secure the nomination for the top slot.
Sources say Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, PPP’s allied party, had reservations over Mukhtar’s appointment. However, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, after a party meeting on Wednesday, told journalists that they had no reservations over Mukhtar’s name.
Meanwhile, Hina Rabbani Khar was also said to have entered the fray, given that she, too, is from southern Punjab.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2012.
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