Islamabad: Pakistan’s parliament on Friday elected former water and power minister and ruling party member Raja Pervez Ashraf as the new prime minister.
Ashraf replaces Yusuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court this week for refusing to reopen corruption cases against Pakistan’s president.
The South Asian nation’s three power centres – the military, civilian leadership and Supreme Court – have been furiously manoeuvring in recent weeks to gain a political edge.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had nominated the textiles minister to replace Gilani.
But an anti-narcotics court issued an arrest warrant for the textiles minister, undermining his bid, in a move analysts said may have been orchestrated by the powerful military.
Forced to resign last year as a minister after his name cropped up in a scam, PPP leader Raja Parvez Ashraf in a reversal of fortune has become Pakistan’s 25th premier, notwithstanding an ongoing probe against him. A strong loyalist of the Bhutto family, Ashraf hails from a royal family of Rawalpindi in Punjab.
61-year-old Ashraf, who was PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari‘s second choice for the post of premier, became the main candidate after an arrest warrant was issued against party nominee Makhdoom Shahbuddin for alleged irregularities during his tenure as Health Minister.
Interestingly, Ashraf is facing a probe by the National Accountability Bureau for alleged corruption in rental power projects during his tenure as Water and Power Minister.
He was secretary-general of the PPP (Parliamentarians), a party formed in 2002 by the PPP for the purpose of complying with electoral rules governing Pakistani parties.
The party contested the 2002 elections while former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was living in self-imposed exile.
Ashraf, who was elected to the National Assembly from Gujar Khan constituency in Rawalpindi district – both in 2002 and 2008 – served twice in the cabinet of Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court.
He resigned from Gilani’s cabinet in February last year after allegations of corruption in power projects. He returned to the cabinet in April this year when he was appointed minister for Information Technology.
Ashraf’s candidature was backed by PML-Q, a major ally of the PPP with more than 50 seats in the National Assembly. His nomination is seen by experts as a taunt to the assertive judiciary. Ashraf’s nomination might irk the Supreme Court, which had ordered the government to take legal action against him for alleged corruption cases.