ISLAMABAD, June 20:
Pakistan’s National Assembly has been convened on Friday to elect a new Prime Minister with the name of outgoing Textile Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin emerging as the main contender for the post.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also co-Chairman of ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), today held several rounds of talks with senior members of his party and allies like PML-Q to build a consensus on a name that will be acceptable to the fractious coalition.
PPP Parliamentary Party also met to discuss possible names for the post of Prime Minister, which fell vacant following Supreme Court’s order disqualifying Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt.
The party insiders said that senior leader Shahabuddin has emerged as a front runner in the race.
PPP leader Khursheed Shah, who was Religious Affairs Minister in Gilani’s cabinet, told reporters that a session of the National Assembly or Lower House of Parliament will be convened at 5.30 pm on Friday to elect the new premier.
Nomination papers for the election will be filed tomorrow, Shah said.
President Zardari will choose the party’s candidate for the post of premier, he said.
Besides Shahabuddin, others who are being considered for the post include former Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar, former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Samina Ghurki, a PPP leader from Lahore whose late husband was a close aide of Zardari.
“The next Prime Minister will be elected by the national assembly. He will be a Member of Parliament. He will be a nice person and loyal to the party,” Gilani’s lawyer and PPP member Aitzaz Ahsan told reporters.
Shahabuddin, who belongs to the Seraiki belt in the southern part of Punjab province, has held several portfolios in Gilani’s cabinet since 2008.
PPP insiders said that Shahabuddin and Mukhtar were both in the reckoning but Shahabuddin was being considered a stronger candidate.
Besides the top leadership of the PML-Q, a key ally of the PPP, were opposed to Mukhtar due to political rivalries in Punjab, sources added.
During a revamp of Gilani’s cabinet in February last year, Shahabuddin was tipped to be sworn in as the Foreign Minister.
However, the party changed its plans after Shah Mahmood Qureshi skipped the swearing-in ceremony on learning that he would not be reallocated the Foreign Ministry.
Like Gilani, Shahabuddin belongs to a spiritual family that is revered and is the custodian of the mausoleum of the Sufi saint Shah Rukn-e-Alam.
The PPP insiders further said that some party leaders had also suggested the names of Khar, Khursheed Shah and Samina Ghurki for the post of premier.
However, they were not considered front-runners for the position. Ghurki is a low-profile leader from Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
Several of the PPP’s allies in the ruling coalition, including the PML-Q and the Awami National Party, will also be holding meetings to finalise their strategy.
The main opposition PML-N’s top leadership held a meeting in Islamabad to discuss the election of the new premier. The meeting was chaired by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. (PTI)
ISLAMABAD, June 20: