Friday, June 22, 2012


Raja Pervez Ashraf has been declared the new prime minister of Pakistan after 211 members of the National Assembly convened to vote for the new premier on Friday. Raja Pervez Ashraf’s competing candidate Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, from Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) lost with 89 votes. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s (JUI-F) Fazlur Rehman was the third candidate, but he withdrew his nomination as soon as the National Assembly session began. According to sources, Ashraf is expected to take oath as the prime minister later tonight, and the new cabinet will consist of the same members as the previous one. He was elected twice from NA-51, Gujjar Khan and also appointed federal minister for water and power after the 2008 elections. The newly premier was again appointed a minister in the recently-dissolved cabinet. Raja Pervez Ashraf also faced corruption allegation for receiving kickbacks in rental power projects and buying properties in London. The Supreme Court also directed NAB to take action against Ashraf for his alleged involvement in rental power case. The session of National Assembly started with the recitation of the Holy Quran, after which Speaker Fehmida Mirza opened the session. Maulana Fazlur Rehman requested the speaker to postpone the election for some time. However, his request was declined by the speaker, after which Moulana Fazl announced that his party would remain neutral in the election and not vote for any candidate. Later, the speaker told the members to go the polling booths made for the purpose and the process of voting started. The House was divided in two parts. The voters of Sardar Mehtab were assigned the left side of the lobby while voters of Raja Ashraf were asked to gather on the right side. Faisal Saleh Heyat also voted in favor of Raja Ashraf. Earlier in a statement Faisal had said that he would not vote for Ashraf. It must be recalled that it was Fiasal Saleh who took the rental power corruption case to Supreme Court.

Pakistan's ruinous political farce

The political pantomime played out in Pakistan over the past few years is degenerating into farce. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court terminated the career of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani - disqualifying him from office on the basis of a contempt of court conviction linked to his refusal to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari. Two days later, a lower court issued a warrant for the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a member of Mr Gilani's party, just hours after he was nominated as his possible successor. Uncanny timing, some might say. While Mr Shahabuddin was still a free man come Friday morning, the ruling alliance named a new man as its candidate for PM, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. But he too faces controversy, denying allegations that he took bribes when water and power minister. Nobody will be surprised if the courts choose to turn up the heat should he become PM, and few expect the judges to drop their pursuit of Mr Zardari. Many in Pakistan see these developments as signs that the skirmishes between the judiciary, the military and the civilian government are now erupting into all-out war. Many in Pakistan see these developments as signs that the skirmishes between the judiciary, the military and the civilian government are now erupting into all-out war. Most ordinary Pakistanis are fed up with power cuts and the price of fuel This is all happening at a time when the country can least afford it - relations with the West are at an all-time low, the economy is heading for disaster and people are battling severe power and fuel shortages. To compound matters, nuclear-armed Pakistan - which is known to have promoted armed militant groups over the past two decades - has steadily been losing territory to these groups in recent years. That's a major issue for its neighbours and the wider world. But instead of dealing with the big problems, Pakistan's power elite have other fish to fry. Military role A major part of the problem lies in the traditional domination of the military in Pakistan, and the fact that the judiciary has supported successive attempts by the generals to cut the politicians down to size. The civilians have rarely held the reins of power, and when they have, they have always had the military establishment to contend with. Accusations of corruption are a time-tested tool to beat the civilians with, and corruption cases lodged against them during the country's 64-year history literally run into the hundreds. Few of those cases have ever been resolved. But they have been successfully used to bring every single civilian government down well before the end of its constitutional five-year term. The present administration is the longest-serving civilian government Pakistan has ever had - it is just over six months short of reaching the finish line. If it does, it will set a new precedent - and this is an unsavoury proposition for the establishment for two reasons. First, prolonged civilian rule is likely to permanently dent the political influence of the military, and thereby the massive business and real estate empires it has acquired. Second, while Pakistan's military and civil bureaucracy are dominated by Punjab province, the country's largest vote-bank, the ruling Pakistan People's Party has its roots in the southern province of Sindh, the country's main source of revenue and home to a distinct linguistic group that detests Punjab's domination. So while the establishment is generally sceptical of politicians, it has been almost intolerant towards the PPP. 'Judicial activism' The military is widely accused by Western powers of playing a double game in Afghanistan and lost credit in the eyes of many Pakistanis when US forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a secret raid on Pakistan's soil. But its diminishing ability to openly control Pakistan's politicians has been more than offset by what some analysts describe as the judiciary's increased ability to encroach on the administrative sphere. This has led to a number of fierce battles between state institutions in recent years which are a distraction from the main challenges. Since 2009, when judges sacked by the Musharraf regime were reinstated by the present government, they have shown an appetite for pursuing long-standing corruption cases against President Zardari. Mr Zardari spent eight years in jail because of them, without being convicted in a single case. That led to the Supreme Court's dogged pursuit of Prime Minister Gilani and his conviction in April. The Supreme Court also responded with alacrity late last year in investigating a controversial memo which invited the US to help avert a possible coup in Pakistan after Bin Laden's death. The "memogate" affair had the potential to drag in President Zardari but has led only to the dismissal of Pakistan's then ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani. Top military leaders showed a keen interest in the case and participated in initial hearings, but gradually pulled out when questions were raised over their own political role. Most recently, the country was stunned to find its bulwark against corruption - Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry himself - implicated in allegations of bribe-taking levelled against his son. They both deny any wrongdoing and an investigation has been ordered. Conspiracy theorists see the government's hand in the case somehow - but no one's got any evidence. The government has distanced itself from the whole affair. Time running out Throughout the endless drama, the government has stood its ground with one single goal in mind - to complete its term. PPP leaders say there's no other way to make sure democracy takes root in Pakistan. But the events of the past couple of years have blurred the rules by which a state should be run, and muddled up the laws that govern the powers of various state institutions. What is happening now is a battle of wits, being fought almost according to the laws of the jungle, some observers say. And time is ticking away for all the important things that the government, the judiciary and the military ought to be doing to rid the country of poverty, shortages, obscurantism and militancy. Meanwhile, what happens in the next 24 hours and who wins the unenviable job of PM is anyone's guess.

PPP picks Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for premiership

PPP leader says parliament elections will be held this year, earlier than expected. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Friday named Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as its nominee for prime minister. The government allies also agreed to the name of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who was earlier selected as covering candidate for Makhdoom Shahabuddin. On Thursday, an anti-narcotics court took the unusual step of issuing an arrest warrant for former textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin over a drugs scandal. Shahabuddin had been President Asif Ali Zardari`s first choice to succeed Gilani. "Raja Pervez Ashraf is our candidate," senior party official Syed Khurshid Shah told a news conference, hinting that the government could call an election before its mandate expires early next year. "This is election year and we are going towards elections," Shah said. "If we have committed some mistakes or did not fulfill our manifesto, then the decision should be left to the people of Pakistan." Ashraf has been dogged by allegations of corruption and controversy from his tenure as water and power minister. He served as information technology minister until the Supreme Court dismissed prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday. Election of the new Prime Minister will be held at a special session of the National Assembly in Islamabad today. Other nominees for premiership are PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira‚ PML-N’s Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan Abbasi and JUI-f’s Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman. Newly elected Leader of the House after taking oath as next Prime Minister will seek Vote of Confidence from the National Assembly within sixty days. Office of the Prime Minister fell vacant after disqualification of Yousuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court in a contempt of court case.