Pakistan’s 25th prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, may not be the ideal candidate for that office. As the minister overseeing the rental power projects (RPP), he was, at best, guilty of handing out massive contracts that never came to fruition and, at worst, of indulging in massive corruption. After the Supreme Court cancelled the RPPs, he was shifted to the ministry of information technology where he promptly banned the microblogging site, Twitter, for refusing to remove blasphemous material. This was a decision so authoritarian and unjustified that then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, overturned it just hours later. Tempting though it may be, to fault the PPP for elevating Mr Ashraf to the office of the prime minister, there is plenty of blame to go around for this state of affairs.
In its quest to find the ideal candidate for the prime ministerial slot, the PPP faced several problems. Its first alternative, Makhdum Shahabuddin, had to be withdrawn from consideration after a warrant for his arrest was issued hours after his candidature was mooted. The PPP faced additional political restraints as it is seen by many as a purely Sindhi phenomenon with its co-chairmen and the Speaker of the National Assembly all hailing from Sindh. The PPP had to replace Mr Gilani with someone else from the same province and the man from Gujjar Khan fit the bill. However, some would say that Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira — who enjoys a clean reputation and who is seen by many as being an intelligent and non-controversial person — would have been a better choice as PM.
Now that Mr Ashraf’s appointment is official, after he garnered 211 votes as opposed to the 89 bagged by the PML-N’s Sardar Mehtab Abbasi in the National Assembly, it is time to put aside worries about his suitability and hope that he is allowed to serve the rest of the government’s term. Ashraf did try to sound all the right notes in his inaugural speech as PM and promised to tackle the price hike, energy and economic crises facing the country. A welcome move was to rank the crisis in Balochistan as highest on his priority list, as well as assuring all of holding transparent elections, working with the opposition and avoiding a clash of institutions, something that this country desperately needs right now.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
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