Islamabad: Raja Pervez Ashraf of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a former federal minister in the government of ousted prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, was Friday elected the country’s 25th prime minister by 211 votes to 89 by a special session of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Sardar Mehtab Abbasi of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) got 89 votes, Geo News reported.
The prime minister’s post became vacant after the Supreme Court disqualified Gilani with effect from April 26 after his conviction for contempt of court for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Tipped earlier as a cover candidate, Ashraf was Thursday named the main candidate for following the issue of a non-bailable arrest warrant against the previous contender Makhdoom Shahabuddin.
Shahabuddin’s name was dropped after an anti-narcotics court Thursday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him in an illegal drugs quota case.
President Asif Ali Zardari Friday evening congratulated Ashraf on his win, and said his election as prime minister was “an indication of the nation’s confidence in democracy”, Dawn News reported.
Ashraf – former minister for water and power, and information and technology – was Friday morning officially declared as the joint candidate for the post of prime minister by the PPP and its allies, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
Speaking to the media alongside Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader Chaudhry Pervaz Elahi, Ashraf said his main priority would be to deal with and overcome the energy crisis in the country.
As the National Assembly session began, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was also a prme ministerial candidate, appealed to the speaker to adjourn the proceedings due to the death of member Fauzia Wahab.
PPP member Naveed Qamar said the session was an important one and could not be adjourned, as the election of the prime minister was imperative to run the business of the government.
Following this exchange, Rehman announced his party would not be voting in the election and that he was withdrawing his candidature.
Earlier, the nomination papers of PPP’s Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Qamar Zaman Kaira were also withdrawn.
Opposition members also shouted slogans like “What was the price?” targeting the JUi-F chief.
Earlier in the day, PPP leader Khursheed Shah met Rehman at his residence to request the JUI-F chief to withdraw his candidature from the prime ministerial election.
On Thursday night, the PPP and its coalition partners, at a meeting chaired by Zardari, authorised the PPP to name the next prime ministerial candidate.
During the meeting attended by leaders of the PML-Q, the MQM and the ANP, the allies unanimously approved the name of Ashraf for the post, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
Gilani was also disqualified as member of the National Assembly from the NA-151, Multan constituency. By-elections for the seat that fell vacant will be held July 19.