It was a scene few would have thought of even a few weeks ago: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was elected the country’s 25th prime minister by parliament on Friday, taking over from Yousaf Raza Gilani who was disqualified by the Supreme Court.
In what ended up being a one-on-one contest, Ashraf secured 211 votes in the 342-member National Assembly, whereas Sardar Mehtab Abbasi from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) bagged 89 votes. “Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is declared to be elected as prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Speaker Fehmida Mirza announced after the vote count.
President Asif Ali Zardari later administered the oath to the new premier. At the ceremony, President Zardari said: “I congratulate and thank the PPP and all coalition partners for endorsing Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as the candidate of the coalition parties for the office of Leader of the House and the Prime Minister.”
JUI-F pulls out
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman withdrew from the running at the last minute. While withdrawing from the race, the JUI-F chief revealed his party was not going to participate in the election process.
“We made an effort to develop consensus over a candidate for the premiership in order to steer the country out of crisis but it did not work … therefore, we do not want to become party at this juncture,” Fazl said.
Then there were two
Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Qamar Zaman Kaira, both from PPP, also withdrew their nomination papers in favour of Ashraf.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) voted for Ashraf; whereas lone member of his party PPP-S, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao voted for Abbasi.
The election appeared to be an ideological challenge for some members of the ruling coalition, particularly the PML-Q, whose senior leader had actually moved the Supreme Court against Ashraf.
It was on the petition of Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat from the PML-Q that the Supreme Court declared the Rental Power Projects – the brainchild of Ashraf – null and void.
Hayat was reluctant to cast a vote for his old rival, but PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi convinced him to do so.
Meanwhile, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali was notably missing, whereas members from a breakaway faction of the PML-Q, the Likeminded group, also abstained from the casting their votes.
While it was the start for Prime Minister Ashraf, it was ousted premier Yousaf Raza Gilani who loomed large over the day. Gilani was disqualified for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president, However, on Friday, President Zardari expressed his gratitude Gilani “for upholding the supremacy of parliament and the Constitution”.
“The ultimate court is the court of the people. The ultimate verdict is pronounced by history. The people and history will give their verdict sooner than later,” the president said in his speech on Friday.
Ashraf, the former water and power minister, is likely to come under similar pressure from Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The voting process, which took around 40 minutes and was interrupted, not surprisingly, by PML-N members chanting, “Raja Rental, Raja Rental”.
Although the session started an hour late, Ashraf reached well ahead of the time. Members from the PPP started posing for photos with him even before the announcement.
In fact, a confident Ashraf went straight to the seat allocated for the prime minister and began received greetings from various lawmakers.
After the announcement of the results, MNA Syed Khursheed Shah recited prayers for Wahab and announced that the next session of the lower house would be adjourned as per tradition.
(Additional input from agencies)
Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.
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