Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has nominated Textiles Minister Mkhdoom Shahabuddin as candidate of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for the post of the country's new Prime Minister, state media announced on Thursday.
"President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, has nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin as a candidate for the prime minister," the state television reported on Thursday morning.
The report said another Federal Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, would be PPP's "covering" candidate in case Shahabuddin was rejected by lawmakers when they meet on Friday to elect a new Premier.
Shahabuddin, who will be filing his candidacy papers late on Thursday, is expected to win the election easily as he has the backing of the entire ruling coalition which has a comfortable majority in the Parliament. Incidentally, Shahabuddin has served in the Cabinets of both Benazir Bhutto and Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The developments follows last week's Supreme Court ruling that disqualified Gilani, who became Prime Minister following the PPP's election win in 2008, from holding office. The court decision came nearly two months after Gilani was convicted of contempt of court.
Following Gilani's ouster, Zardari engaged in intense discussions with lawmakers and other leaders from his PPP as well as allied parties to finalize a candidate for the premiership. He has already summoned the National Assembly to meet on Friday evening to elect the new Prime Minister.
Gilani was convicted of contempt in April for disobeying a Court order by not writing to the Swiss authorities seeking re-opening of a money laundering case against President Zardari as directed by the Court on several occasions in the past. He was given a token sentence and avoided a jail term.
A Swiss court had found Zardari and his assassinated wife Benazir Bhutto guilty in absentia in 2003 of laundering millions of dollars received in kickbacks from Swiss firms while in power. The duo had appealed against that verdict, but the case was dropped in 2008 at the request of the Pakistani government.
The Supreme Court wanted the government to formally request the Swiss authorities to re-open the case. But Gilani insisted during his trial that Zardari was immune from prosecution as President and stressed the cases were politically-motivated.
The Court had earlier overturned an amnesty protecting Zardari and dozens of other top politicians from being prosecuted for corruption two years ago. Nevertheless, the previous civilian government led by Gilani had refrained from reopening the corruption cases, insisting they were a closed chapter.
by RTT Staff Writer
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