ISLAMABAD (MAQBOOL MALIK & IMRAN MUKHTAR) – After hectic PPP in-house meetings and consultations with the partners parties the leading coalition party Tuesday night decided to nominate Makhdoom Shahabuddin as the next prime minister, sources said.

Earlier the same day, PPP Central Executive Council accepted disqualification of Makhdoom Yousuf Raza Gilani, while in a consultative meeting the coalition partners authorised President Zardari to nominate the next prime minister.

Textile Industry Minister Shahabuddin, who belongs to the Seraiki belt in the southern part of Punjab, has held several portfolios in Gilani’s 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. During a revamp of Gilani’s cabinet in February last year, Shahabuddin was tipped to be sworn in as the foreign minister. However, the party changed its plans after Shah Mahmood Qureshi skipped the swearing-in ceremony upon learning that he would not be reallocated the Foreign Ministry.

PPP Co-Chairman and President Asif Ali Zardari and disqualified PM Yousuf Raza Gilnai co-chaired the first round of consultative meeting with allied parties in the Presidency.

PML-Q chief Ch Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed, MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi and Babur Khan Ghouri, Munir Khan Orakzai of FATA Group and Haji Adeel and Afrasyab Khattak of ANP attended the meeting.

Sources said that the coalition partners decided that the new prime minister will be from the Punjab province. The PML-Q leadership conveyed its reservations to PPP bosses about the potential nomination of Ch Ahmed Mukhtar as new leader of the house, while Gilani objected at the name of Makhdum Shahabuddin.

The MQM leaders who participated in the meeting held consultations with PML-Q leadership at the residence of Ch Shujjat Hussain before going back for another exhaustive huddle at Aiwan-e-Sadr. Sources said the allies also decided that national assembly will be convened either on Thursday or Friday after the PPP makes a final decision. Later, after finalisation of Shahabuddin’s name, it was decided that the NA session will be called on Thursday.

Latter, PPP Central Executive Council (CEC) – the supreme decision making body of the party – despite some reservations accepted in principle the disqualification of Gilani.

According to insiders, the crucial CEC meeting, which was co-chaired by President Zardari, disqualified PM Gilani and PPP Chairman Bilwal Bhutto Zardari, accepted the apex court decision on the request of Senator Mian Raza Rabbani.

The meeting also offered prayers for the departed souls of former party Chief Benzair Bhutto and Fauzia Wahab. Sources said that meeting also decided to convene meeting of PPP parliamentary party here today (Wednesday) and dispersed.

However, President Zardari, Gilani and Bilawal Bhutto along with a group of senior party stalwarts converged into another room in the Presidency and held intense deliberations.

Sources said that the informal meeting unanimously decided the name for party’s next candidate for the Leader of the House in the National Assembly. The meeting also decided that Gilani would also challenge the Supreme Court’s decision of his disqualification.

Some sources said that a three member committee headed by the outgoing prime minister Yousuf Gilani, who is also senior PPP Vice Chairman, was constituted to finalise the name for next Chief Executive of the country with special consideration that like Gilani, the new man would not bow before the apex court and would be willing to face any consequences in the interest of the party.

Apart from other major challenges, the new prime minister immediately after assuming his office would face the challenge of implementing Supreme Court’s decision on NRO, particularly with reference to writing letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening the money laundering case against President Zardari.

Sources said the meeting also decided to complete the term of the parliament instead of going for general elections later this year. President Zardari also conveyed his decision to the party colleague of cancelling his visit to Russia.

After the CEC meeting, PPP General-Secretary Jahangir Badr, who was flanked by senior leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira and Raja Pervez Ashraf, expressed reservations over the Supreme Court verdict, saying the PPP would decide its future course of action after consulting the coalition partners.

He told that the party had accepted the fact that Gilani has ceased to exist as prime minister and consequently the federal cabinet too stood dissolved.

Badr told reporters: “The coalition parties will be consulted before taking any final decision on the issue (of next PM) as we want to move forward along with the allies.“ He said they would do everything in the best interest of the country, parliament and democracy.

Badr also said that the PPP had convened the parliamentary party meeting today (Wednesday) to deliberate upon the challenges faced in the wake of Gilani’s disqualification.

PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said though the party had reservations over the court judgment, the coalition partners and legal experts would be consulted on the issue. He refused to comment on the court verdict, saying it was only the short order and the party was waiting for the detailed verdict.

He, at the same time, advised the party workers to remain calm and avoid any kind of protests. He alleged that the power protests in Punjab were sponsored by the provincial government, which claimed innocent lives and damaged public and private property.

Raja Pervez Ashraf said the CEC had authorised President Zardari to finalise future line of action. He also promised that the democratic process would continue and the PPP would continue to play its positive role in the greater interest of the country.