Hectic talks on for new Pakistan prime minister

February 22nd, 2008 - 6:31 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 22 (IANS) Newly elected Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) members to the National Assembly are meeting here later Friday to discuss the question of who the country’s next prime minister will be. The party’s Makhdoom Amin Faheem is the current front-runner. After PPP - with the highest number of legislators - and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) agreed on a coalition government Thursday, their top leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif ruled themselves out for the premier’s post.

So now the search is on for a prime minister. Faheem had been the PPP’s main face in Pakistan during Benazir Bhutto’s eight-year political exile.

On the sidelines of these political parleys, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and PPP supporter Aitzaz Ahsan told reporters in Lahore Friday that the next prime minister should be from Sindh, the home province of the Bhuttos.

Sitting next to him in the same press conference, former cricketer and Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Imran Khan had suggested that Ahsan was a suitable candidate for the top job. But Ahsan, who is technically under house arrest, has denied that he is in the running.

Currently, PPP has emerged as the largest political party by winning 87 seats, PML-N is second with 66 and former ruling party, PML-Quaid a distant third with 40. Besides, Pasthun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), which has routed the Islmasists in the North West Frontier Province, has 10 seats in the National Assembly and has been invited to be part of the coalition government.

Meanwhile, Western diplomats continued their parleys with the main political parties, with Sharif meeting the British high commissioner and the French ambassador.

Sharif is also expected to meet ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan later Friday.

Most of the leaders are scheduled to fly back to the provincial capitals for the weekend, where they will continue talks on alliance formation at the centre and provinces.

The ANP leader is also scheduled to meet the American envoy in Pakistan. The envoy had met both Zardari and Sharif soon after the results showed that the Pakistani people had thrown out the old order.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan, whose party had boycotted the elections, warned: “political parties and Musharraf cannot work together”. He urged political parties to respect the people’s mandate for releasing the deposed chief justice and seven judges as well as remove President Musharraf.

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