ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will try to run the show from the Presidency and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf will just be the public face as Prime Minister, according to the conditions settled with the newly elected PM who won the slot, courtesy Gilani.
According to the insiders, Gilani’s bureaucratic aides like Nargis Sethi, Khushnud Lashari and others would continue working on their positions and thus Raja would be dependent and surrounded by them.
Gilani has shifted to the Presidency, it has been learnt, where a presidential suite of three bedrooms on the sixth floor has been set up for him. Earlier, he was in the Islamabad Club that he has to leave due to security issues.
He was offered an unlimited stay at the Sindh House, situated right in the front of the Chief Justice House but he will be residing in the Presidency for security reasons, sources privy to the plan confided to The News.
To get the official version this correspondent called Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman of the president, but he did not respond to phone calls and text message. However, Fawad Chaudhry, a close aide of Gilani, when contacted denied the impression that the former PM will be pulling the strings of Raja Pervez Ashraf.
He confirmed that Gilani fully supported Raja. Regarding Gilani’s shifting to the Presidency suite, he showed ignorance, saying however that former PM will soon acquire a house in Islamabad.
As for the governance affairs, Gilani is flexing muscles to do it from behind the scene with Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in the front. Keeping in view this plan, it has been decided that Gilani’s trusted bureaucratic aides would continue serving the newly appointed PM. Although Nargis Sethi would be here to do the needful, Khushnud Lashari, Gilani’s principal secretary has been in London for the last two weeks for medical treatment. In case he does not return in time, he may be replaced with some other officer but certainly of Gilani’s choice.
Nargis Sethi is the most powerful bureaucrat wearing too many caps. Right now she is secretary of the all-powerful defence and cabinet divisions. Earlier she served Gilani as his principal secretary. Gilani would call her his Condoleezza Rice, a reference to the US secretary of state in the Bush Administration who was considered very close to the president. Khushnud Lashari was also holding two important positions as principal secretary to the PM and secretary establishment division. It has been learnt that Gilani strongly supported the candidature of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, though Makhdoom Shahahbuddin tried his best to win over Gilani.
Instead of directly opposing his candidature, Gilani gave the argument that since Makhdoom had been implicated in the ephedrine case, he would be facing serious complications, jeopardising his position as prime minister.
As the ANF is under army’s control, Gilani speculated that arrest warrants for Makhdoom meant that the army had rejected him. Makhdoom Shahabuddin missed the coveted post by a whisker just like his late brother Makhdoom Altaf who was about to become the chief minister of Punjab in Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure when Manzoor Watto defected from Nawaz Sharif and was rewarded with the CM slot.
Like Makhdoom, Qamar Zaman Kaira, was also neither a favorite candidate of Gilani nor of Zardari. Kaira is known for exercising his own wisdom on issues of greater importance. Also, he is a relatively clean person when compared to Raja Pervaiz Ashraf therefore he could emerge as a potential rebel. However, apparently, Kaira was dropped on the grounds that he is too young for the post.
As for Gilani’s bet on Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and the decision to remote control him, PPP sources take it with guarded optimism. They say it is entirely impossible that Raja would be at the beck and call of Gilani all the time. Instead, he would try to assert himself, even if he remains under Asif Zardari’s influence. “There will be a power tussle, for sure,” said an insider.