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Makhdoom Shahabuddin to be new Pakistan PM

By Tahir Ali
June 20, 2012 10:26 IST
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The ruling Pakistan People's Party has nominated senior leader Makhdoom Shahabuddin for the post of premier following the Supreme Court's disqualification of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Shahbuddin is also a Sajjada Nashin or the descendant of a Sufi saint like his predecessor Yusuf Raza Gilani.

According to sources, the decision to nominate Shahbuddin was taken in a meeting of PPP's senior leaders, held late on Tuesday, under the chairmanship of party chief and President Asif Ali Zardari.

A crucial session of the National Assembly for the vote is expected to be held within the next few days.

Water and Power Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar was also considered for the post of the prime minister for the remaining nine months of the PPP's tenure. The PPP, which won the general election held in 2008, will complete its tenure in March next year.

Hailing from Gujarat district of central Punjab, Mukhtar is considered to be an arch-rival of the leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid -- the largest ally in the PPP-led ruling coalition. He had contested and won against PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in 2008 in a closely-fought contest.

Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, a veteran PPP leader from the party's stronghold of Sindh, was also in the running for the PM's post. Some officials claimed that he was being backed by majority of the party leaders.

But Shah lost out to Shahabuddin as the PPP cannot afford to hand out all the important positions to leaders from the same province.

The party has its eyes on South Punjab, or the Seraiki belt, for the upcoming general election -- giving Shahabuddin an edge over other contenders.

According to sources, Shahabuddin's name has been finalised for the PM's post and none of the allies have objected to his nomination.

Shahabuddin, who is currently serving as the textile minister, has held several portfolios in Gilani's cabinet since 2008.

During a revamp of Gilani's cabinet in February 2011, Shahabuddin was tipped to be sworn in as the foreign minister. But the party changed its plans after then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi skipped the swearing-in ceremony after learning that he would not be given charge of the ministry again.

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Tahir Ali In Islamabad