Zardari fields Shahabuddin for Pakistan PM’s post (Lead)

June 21st, 2012 - 3:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, June 21 (IANS) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has formally named former textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin as the candidate of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for the post of prime minister, state television reported Thursday.

Another PPP leader, Raja Pervez Ashraf, will file nomination papers Thursday as a covering candidate, PTV reported.

Shahabuddin is a member of the National Assembly since February 2008 from Punjab province’s Rahim Yar Khan city, and was the textiles minister in the government of Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

He earlier held the portfolios of federal minister for finance and health, Geo News said.

The main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), also has decided to field Mehtab Khan Abbasi, a former minister and a key leader from northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as its candidate for the post of prime minister.

The decision to field Shahabuddin was taken after Zardari held hectic consultations with PPP leaders, members of parliament and leaders of allied parties over the past two days.

Shahabuddin will file his nomination papers Thursday in the National Assembly Secretariat.

The election for the prime minister will be held at 5.30 p.m. Friday during a special session of the National Assembly.

The PPP and its allies enjoy majority in the 342-member lower house of parliament.

Shahabuddin, born in 1947, hails from Punjab province and has served as minister in several cabinets, including during the regime of then prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Analysts told Xinhua that by nominating Shahabuddin, the PPP wants to strengthen its position in Punjab, the country’s biggest province that plays a key role in government formation.

Shahabuddin belongs to a spiritual family and is a custodian of the shrine of a Sufi saint.

The National Assembly Secretariat would receive nomination papers from 2 p.m. Thursday. Speaker Fehmida Mirza will carry out scrutiny of the papers at 3 p.m., and the candidates whose papers are found to be in order will be eligible to contest Friday’s election for the office of prime minister.

After the election Friday, the majority candidate will emerge as the prime minister-elect, till he takes oath of office. After taking oath, the prime minister will seek vote of confidence from the house.

Pakistani daily News International has reported that Shahabuddin, however, could be arrested any time by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) for issuing of unauthorised drug quota to a pharmaceuticals firm.

The case is being heard by the Supreme Court, and a bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had already directed the ANF to arrest Shahabuddin.

An ANF official said the investigators had undeniable evidence of Shahabuddin’s involvement in the case.

The ANF had last summoned Shahabuddin in May for interrogation. Though he admitted issuing the quota, he pleaded innocence, saying he was unaware of the purpose.

The post of the prime minister became vacant after Gilani was disqualified by the apex court following its April 26 verdict that held him in contempt of court for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against Zardari.

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