It appears that the PPP’s final choice for the Prime Minister’s slot vacated by Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani, disqualified to hold office under the Supreme Court orders, is none other than Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who already stands accused of corruption in the rental power projects (RPPs) and against whom the very same court has issued severe strictures. It was as a consequence of this that Mr Gilani had shifted him from the position of Minister for Water and Power at that time. Interestingly as well, the first choice of President Zardari that later received the backing of the party, was Makhdoom Shahabuddin who was implicated, as Minister of Health, in the infamous Ephedrine case. However, as the Makhdoom was filing his nomination papers on Thursday, a judge of the anti-narcotics court was issuing non-bailable warrants, both for him and the outgoing Prime Minister’s son, Musa Raza Gilani. PML-N also objected to his selection, but most probably, the catalyst for the withdrawal of his nomination was the arrest orders. He is now replaced with one of the two cover candidates, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
A total of five candidates filed their nomination papers for the prime ministership on Thursday. They were all found in order. Apart from Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira was another candidate of the PPP; Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (F); and Sardar Mehtab Abbasi of the PML-N. The National Assembly meets Friday afternoon to elect one of the three remaining in the field and as the PPP enjoys a comfortable majority with the support of coalition partners – MQM, ANP and PML-Q – there is little doubt that Raja Ashraf will be elected, though one should not rule out the opposition’s hue and cry on the floor of the House, underscoring not only his involvement in the RPP scandal, but also his failure to deliver on the promise of ending the agony of loadshedding.
With the end of the Gilani chapter, the only course for the PPP may be to implement the judgments of the Supreme Court. Compliance with judicial verdicts would be the greatest service the government could do to the cause of democracy, but with the dismissal of the Prime Minister and the resulting uncertainty, it remains to be seen whether it will come to pass.The end of the confrontation would also open up the possibility of attending to the problems of the people. Unfortunately, President Zardari has other plans. The court verdict about the outgoing PM’s contempt would be debated in Parliament and the nature of the debate, not hard to guess, could only cause greater friction with the judiciary. Besides, it is not difficult to see the logic of his remark that his government would not let “the trial of Benazir’s grave” to take place – a clear reference to the letter that the apex court ordered be written to the Swiss. The nation is, undoubtedly, up for “interesting times”, as the Chinese saying goes.