Senior Pakistan People's Party leader Raja Parvez Ashraf on Thursday emerged the leading contender for the post of premier despite reservations over his candidature within the ruling party and its allies.
After a special anti-narcotics court issued an arrest warrant for prime ministerial candidate Makhdoom Shahbuddin early in the day for alleged irregularities in the import of a controlled drug during his tenure as Health Minister, the PPP was left with the option of fielding Asharf or Qamar Zaman Kaira for the slot.
Reports said the PPP's top leadership zeroed in on Ashraf but there were reservations on his candidature as he is facing a probe by the national accountability court for alleged corruption in rental power Projects during his tenure as power minister.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, an ally of the PPP, too is opposed to Ashraf, sources told PTI. Some sections of the PPP-backed Kaira in view of his clean image and unsullied reputation but some senior party leaders were averse to the prospect of working under a young leader like Kaira, the sources said.
However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a major ally of the PPP with more than
50 seats in the National Assembly, put its weight behind Ashraf. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who head the PML-Q, were opposed to Kaira as his constituency is located close to their stronghold of Gujrat in Punjab.
"Kaira is from the Gujrat belt. The Chaudhrys do not want a man from the PPP to rule in their area," a senior PML-Q leader told PTI.
He said Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had ousted PPP leader Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar from the race for the post of prime minister on the same grounds.
"There is no doubt that Kaira is a much better candidate for the slot when compare to Ashraf, but the Chaudhrys have their political compulsions," the PML-Q leader said.
A relative of the Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who is part of the team holding talks with the PPP to finalise the name of the prime ministerial candidate told PTI that the PML-Q had favoured Ashraf as the new premier. "Kaira is out of the race," he claimed.
On the other hand, a senior PPP leader said the appointment of Ashraf might irk the supreme court, which had ordered the government to take legal action against Ashraf for
alleged corruption in the rental power projects.
"It appears that the PPP leadership has nominated Asharf by design to taunt the judiciary," he said.A special session of the parliament has been convened at 5.30 pm on Friday to elect the new premier following Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's disqualification by the supreme court on Tuesday.