PPP nominates Zardari for Pakistani presidency

August 23rd, 2008 - 12:43 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 22 (DPA) The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto Friday nominated her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, as its candidate to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters in Islamabad that the leadership of the PPP, the country’s largest political party, had unanimously proposed Zardari.

Musharraf, who ran Pakistan for almost nine years, initially as military ruler, resigned his post Monday after being threatened with impeachment by parliament.

Rehman emphasized, however, that Zardari had yet to make up his mind whether he wanted to contest the presidential elections, set for Sep 6.

“He will make an announcement in this regard within the next 24 hours,” she said.

The PPP announcement came hours after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) set the date for the election. Nomination papers would be accepted on Aug 26, ECP head Kunwar Dilshad said.

Zardari’s nomination could deepen rifts in the ruling coalition, which took power after defeating Musharraf’s political allies in Feb 18 elections.

The second largest party in the alliance, Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N), has indicated its preference for a candidate without political affiliations, preferably from a smaller province.

The wrangling between the two major parties, the left-wing PPP and the right-wing PML-N, has intensified on several issues, including on the restoration of judges.

The PML-N Friday pushed forward a deadline for the reinstatement of more than 60 judges sacked by Musharraf.

“Our position on the issue is that a resolution should be tabled in the parliament Monday and after a debate of two days, it should be passed Wednesday followed by the reinstatement of judges the same day,” PML-N head Nawaz Sharif said in Islamabad “We certainly do not desire to part away (from the PPP), we want the coalition to remain intact,” Sharif added.

He had earlier said that his party would pull out of the coalition if the judges, including deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, were not restored by Friday.

The PML-N has argued for immediate restoration of more than 60 judges through a parliamentary resolution followed by an executive order, while the PPP reportedly wants the reinstatement of all the judges except Chaudhry.

The independent-minded former chief justice, once back in the office, could reverse the amnesty granted to Zardari by Musharraf over corruption charges. The charges relate to the period when Zardari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto, was the prime minister.

Zardari was detained for more than 11 hours over these charges, which have not been proved in court.

The deadline might be extended by a couple of days, said Maulana Fazalur Rehman, a junior coalition partner, who has been mediating between the two major parties on the issue.

“But the restoration of judges should take place within the next week,” he added.

The squabbling between the parties has disappointed the public as well as Pakistan’s Western allies who want political stability so that the government can focus on problems like Islamic militancy and an economic meltdown.

Three suicide bombers struck Thursday outside a military-run weapons factory in the town of Wah, some 30 km northwest of Islamabad, killing 70 and injuring more than 100.

Islamic militants in the country’s tribal areas, which contain sanctuaries for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants targeting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the bombing, warning more such actions will follow.

Pakistan’s stock markets initially welcomed Musharraf’s resignation but suffered a downward slide in the following days as the coalition partners locked horns on the judges issue.

The Pakistani rupee plunged Friday to a record low, trading at 77.10 against the dollar.

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