Pakistan president nominates party loyalist for PM

ISLAMABAD, June 21: Pakistan’s president has nominated ruling party veteran and textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin to replace the ousted prime minister, state media reported today, in an apparent bid for continuity ahead of elections due early next year.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declared Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ineligible for office for refusing to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, triggering a new crisis in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

At the time, a senior aide to Gilani said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister, raising the possibility of a confrontation between court and government, but by nominating a new man the president has accepted the ruling and backed away from a fight.

Shahabuddin is expected to file his nomination papers today. The ruling coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament, which meets tomorrow in an extraordinary session to elect a new prime minister.

Shahabuddin will face mounting public frustrations over a staggering range of problems, and a Supreme Court chief justice who prides himself on standing up to Pakistan’s most powerful players.

Gilani’s removal is likely to heat up the Pakistani political arena, where the civilian leadership, the powerful military and the Supreme Court square off against each other at the expense of a public longing for stability and a stronger economy.

Pakistan’s relations with the United States, which provides it with billions of dollars in aid, are at their lowest point in years.

Taliban militants still pose a major security threat, despite numerous army crackdowns. The economy is struggling and analysts predict Pakistan will again have to turn to the International Monetary Fund to keep it afloat. (agencies)


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