Thursday, 21 June 2012

Race for PM turns murky

ISLAMABAD - Despite three days of high drama and speedy political developments in the federal capital, the ruling coalition has failed to evolve a consensus on any Pakistan People’s Party leader out of the two short-listed candidates, including Qamar Zaman Kaira and Raja Pervez Ashraf.
However, PPP co-chairman President Asif Ali Zardari late on Thursday gave another surprise to the nation by conveying to the leaders of the coalition parties that Raja Pervez Ashraf would be his party’s final candidate for the slot of the prime minister and that he had decided to drop the name of Makhdoom Shahabuddin due to the issuance of non-bailable warrants against him by an Anti-Narcotics Force court in the ephedrine drug case.
However, due to Ashraf’s previous record as the minister of water and power and his dubious role in the Rental Power Project (RPPs) scam, leaders of major coalition parties, spearheaded by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), advised the PPP chief to review his decision and instead nominate Kaira for the slot as the upcoming months were important and the new PM should lead the way to resolve all contentious issues, including load shedding.
The meeting could not resolve the matter and finally, all the coalition partners authorised President Zardari to name the new PM.
President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said coalition partners announced their support to the PPP nominee as the candidate for the office of the PM.
“It also decided that the name of the PPP nominee will be announced by Syed Khursheed Shah at a press conference at 11am tomorrow (Friday),” he said.
A source told Pakistan Today that the allies could not evolve a consensus over the name of the new PM as the MQM asked the president to consider nominating Kaira, but the name was quietly rejected by PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain through a common friend.
The source said the ANP, however, supported President Zardari’s nominee and thus the meeting ended without a consensus.Finally, the source added, the meeting asked the president to take a wise decision, as at the end of the day, it would be the PPP who would have to face consequences of a wrong choice and the situation could also go out of hands of politicians.

Proving to be a dark horse, Pervez Ashraf has “arrived” after a series of hectic consultations within the PPP as well as with the ruling coalition. 
His nomination has been made despite reservations expressed by the MQM, but even that could not convince President Zardari to change his mind.
Earlier, a high-level delegation of the PPP, led by Syed Khursheed Shah, visited the residence of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain late on Thursday night and informed him about his party’s decision to appoint Ashraf in place of Makhdoom Shahabuddin. 
Challenges: It would, however, be a test of credibility for the leadership of the PML-Q as its Parliamentary Leader Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat was a petitioner in the RPP case under which the apex court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to act against Ashraf and other previous water and power ministers for recovering billions of rupees.
Nomination papers: The political crisis deepened on Thursday as five candidates submitted their nomination papers with the National Assembly, including three members from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), including Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Raja Parvez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, while Fazlur Rehman from the JUI-F and PML-N’s Mehtab Khan Abbasi filed papers for their sides. The speaker accepted the papers of all the candidates after a brief scrutiny and rejected the allegations raised by PML-N members against Shahabuddin and Pervez Ashraf.
Kaira enters scene: Later, the president directed former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira to submit his nomination papers along with Raja Pervez Ashraf and Makhdoom Shahabuddin.
Taking advantage of the situation, Fazlur Rehman made his utmost efforts to exploit the situation for his advantage. He visited the residence of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat and contacted MQM chief Altaf Hussain, ANP Senior Vice President Haji Mohammad Adeel and PPP-Sherpao chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and sought support for his candidature who he claimed could prove to be a ‘consensus candidate’ who could work to create political harmony and save the situation from an imminent “military takeover”.
But it was Makhdoom Shahabuddin who faced a major blow on Thursday after receiving bouquets and sweets for his nomination for the top slot. However, the situation took a dramatic turn after PPP leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah entered the National Assembly and asked the NA secretary to withdraw his papers as ‘proposer’ for Makhdoom. Flanked by Kaira, he also handed over a couple of papers to the secretary which later proved out to be the nomination the papers of Kaira for the PM’s slot. Senator Farooq H Naik, however, said the arrest warrants could not bar Makhdoom Shahab from contesting the election and that Kaira’s nomination papers of were submitted as a “precautionary measure”. 
Non-serious PML-N: There was no serious effort by the PML-N leadership as the major opposition party remained a mere spectator throughout the day. No political contact was made and the PML-N again turned out to be in utter isolation.
Party position in NA: The National Assembly will meet today (Friday) evening and by the time of starting the voting, there is a provision for contestants to withdraw the candidature. As per the party position, total MNAs in the National Assembly are 339 while three are vacant including the seats of Yousaf Raza Gilani and late Fauzia Wahab.The government enjoys the support of 236 members in the Lower House, while the opposition has a strength of 103 members. On the government’s side, the PPP has 124 members, PML-Q 46 MNAs, MQM 25, ANP 13, PML-F has five members, while the NPP and BNP-A have one member each.