ISLAMABAD: The list of contenders for the office of prime minister is swelling as besides Makhdoom Shahabuddin (frontrunner) and Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah, Samina Khalid Ghurki, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Faisal Karim Kundi have also emerged as likely replacement of Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.
The scope for a dark horse cannot be ruled out since the leadership of the PPP has proven to be unpredictable in manymany cases. It is expected that the new prime minister would retain all the ministers and ministers of state in the outgoing cabinet.
Meanwhile, Federal Secretary for Cabinet Division Ms Nargis Sethi has assumed the powers of chief executive of the country ever since the Supreme Court announced its verdict on Tuesday afternoon in the speaker ruling case declaring Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s election as MNA void.
She will continue acting in the slot as long new prime minister isn’t designated and takes oath of the office. She is required to seek endorsement of the president in her decisions and actions.
Ms Sethi, who is holding the dual charge of secretary Ministry of Defence besides Cabinet Division, came to know about the verdict of the apex court while she was in the Defence Ministry in Rawalpindi. She rushed to her Islamabad office in the Cabinet Division where she received a copy of the Supreme Court order. She issued the orders to different branches of the administration for compliance with the judgment.
Later, the secretary cabinet and defence called on Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in the Prime Minister House and stayed with him for about three quarters of an hour. Gilani heard the news about the Supreme Court verdict in the Presidency where he was co-chairing the high-level meeting of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). He remained composed as he heard it.
Gilani came back to the PM House according to his routine in the late afternoon. The national flag was fluttering on his car and he asked the driver to remove it before proceeding to the house and it was the first indication of the verdict’s acceptance by him.
As soon Gilani returned to the PM House, leaders of the PPP and its coalition partners in the government including ministers and ministers of state (MOS) thronged the official residence of the prime minister. They stayed with him for about three hours and discussed with him various aspects and fallout of the court judgment.
Interestingly, frontrunners for the chief executive’s slot Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar did not turn up at the PM House for expression of their solidarity with Gilani.
Ms Farzana Raja, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan, Ms Asma Alamgir Khan, Syed Naveed Qamar, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah, Nawabzada Malik Ammad Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Sardar Salim were among the prominent members of the outgoing cabinet who rushed to the PM House to express their sympathies with Gilani.
Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had one-to-one meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari in the Presidency late Tuesday evening before the meeting of the parliamentary leaders of the ruling alliance. The president offered Gilani to designate his successor but he thanked the president and asked him to exercise his right to nominate next leader of the house in the National Assembly.
The first dent has appeared in the coalition partners as eight-member strong group in the Parliament belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) under former federal minister Hamidullah Jan Afridi has expressly opposed the group under Haji Munir Orakzai. The group has also opposed the inclusion of any minister or minister of state from the other group.
The Hamidullah group withdrew its support to Yusuf Raza Gilani after he included Senator Abbas Afridi as minister of state in addition to a federal minister from that group. Munir Orakzai attended the high-level meeting in the Presidency but Hamidullah Jan Afridi stayed away.
Likewise, the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) is also not comfortable with the ruling alliance and it is believed that the election of the next leader of the house in the National Assembly and managing vote of confidence for him would not be an easy proposition.