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Gillani elected new Pakistan PM
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | March 24, 2008 19:38 IST
Yousuf Raza Gillani was on Monday expectedly elected the new prime minister of Pakistan by Parliament amid a looming showdown with President Pervez Musharraf [Images] who will swear in the Bhutto loyalist on Tuesday.
The victory of Gillani (55), chosen by the Pakistan People's Party to head the incoming coalition government, was a foregone conclusion as the former national assembly speaker won by a huge majority trouncing his lone opponent Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a senior member of opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q by 264 to 42 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly.
"Yousuf Raza Gillani commands the majority of the members. Please come forward and take the seat of leader of the House," Parliamentary Speaker Fahmedia Mirza said after she declared as winner the man who spent five years in jail under Musharraf's regime.
The supporters of the slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's [Images] party -- PPP -- shouted "Long Live Bhutto" and "Go, Musharraf,Go" as the result was announced.
Bhutto's teenage son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who watched the proceedings from the public gallery, was seen wiping his tears and then shook hands with Gillani.
Musharraf will swear in the next prime minister at a ceremony to be held at 11 am on Tuesday at the Aiwan-e-Sadr or presidency.
Gillani, who will be the first Seraiki-speaking prime minister from a region in Punjab,will be in the thick of a potential confrontation with Musharraf on the issue of reinstatement of over 60 judges sacked by the president.
Ahead of getting the Parliamentary vote, Gillani met PPP vice chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim in an apparent effort to end the rift created after the latter was sidelined in the race for the top post.
Wearing a dark suit and tie, Gillani in his first speech to Parliament said, "Today, democracy has been restored thanks to the great sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto."
"I invite all political foces to join us because the country is facing such a crisis that a single man cannot save it," he said.
"If we have to make this country successful then we will have to make Parliament supreme, we will have to respect the Constitution and uphold the rule of law," Gillani said.
There is speculation that Gillani will be a stop-gap premier until Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari, who is not an MP, becomes eligible to stand for the post by contesting a by-election in May.
But local daily The News quoted Zardari as denying this, saying that he is not interested in the job and that Gillani would be prime minister "for five years and not for three months."
A Pakistani court earlier on Monday acquitted Zardari of involvement in the 1996 murder of a retired judge, his lawyer said, the latest in a string of cases against him that have been dropped in the past month.
After Fahim was pipped in the prime ministerial stakes, both he and Gillani told reporters there were no differences between them and the new prime minister claimed the media had blown up the issue.
Pakistan Muslim League-N chief and former premier Nawaz Sharif, whose PML-N and ANP will be part of the coalition, will be boycotting Gillani's swearing-in ceremony to protest against Musharraf's presence whom he has called "an illegal and unconstitutional" president.
"His (Sharif's) participation in a presidency-hosted function is out of the question," according to PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal.