Pakistans National Assembly has been convened on Friday to elect a new prime minister with outgoing Textile Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin emerging as the main contender for the post.
President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday held several rounds of talks with senior members of his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) party and allies like the PML-Q to build a consensus on a name that will be acceptable to the fractious coalition.
The post of prime minister fell vacant following a Supreme Courts order disqualifying Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt on Tuesday.
Party insiders said that senior leader Shahabuddin has emerged as a frontrunner in the race. It is 95 per cent certain that Shahabuddin will be the candidate for the post of Prime Minister. But one never knows with our party co-chairman (Zardari),who likes springing surprises, said a PPP leader,who did not want to be named.
Addressing the meeting of the PPPs Parliamentary Party members at the Presidency,Dawn newspaper quoted Zardari as saying that the decision to nominate a new leader of the House would be taken in consultation with the coalition partners and in the larger national interest.
The president said that the PPP had temporarily accepted the courts judgment,despite its reservations on the ruling,for the sake of democracy.
Moreover,he said that the next general elections would be held in eight months time.
Gilani,who also attended the meeting,said he had worked according to the constitution and the law. I would continue to serve the masses and the country to the best of my capacity. I remained loyal to the party, said Gilani.
Zardari on Wednesday summoned a special session of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament at 5.30 pm on Friday to elect the new Prime Minister. Speaker Fehmida Mirza will chair the session,officials said.
Another strong contender for the prime ministers post is former Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar. However,the top leadership of the PML-Q,a key ally of the PPP,is opposed to the candidature of Mukhtar due to political rivalries in Punjab. PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was defeated by Mukhtar in Gujrat city in the last general election.
Gilani not too keen on PM frontrunner
Gilani expressed reservations over the candidature of Shahabuddin during the meeting of PPP and its allies Tuesday night.
Both Gilani and Shahabuddin belong to the southern part of Punjab. Rivalries were believed to be the reason for his reservations.
Shahabuddin,who belongs to Seraiki belt,has held many portfolios in Gilanis cabinet since 2008.
Like Gilani,Shahabuddin belongs to a spiritual family that is revered and is the custodian of the mausoleum of the Sufi saint Shah Rukn-e-Alam.