Parvez Ashraf is new Pakistan PM
Facing Charges Of Kickbacks In Power Projects
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Islamabad, June 22: Raja Parvez Ashraf, a stalwart of the ruling PPP, was Friday elected by the National Assembly as Pakistan's new Prime Minister as the country struggled to come out of its latest political crisis.
61-year-old loyalist of the Bhutto family was pitch-forked into the hot seat after the original choice Makhdoom Shahabuddin faced an arrest warrant yesterday. But the new leader himself is dogged by corruption charges relating to his tenure as Power Minister.
The 342-member National Assembly chose Ashraf with 211 votes against opposition PML-N nominee Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi who got 89 votes. He will be administered oath of office by President Asif Ali Zardari as the country's 25th Prime Minister. Ashraf, who belongs to a royal family of Rawalpindi in Punjab, succeeds Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court three days ago following his refusal to pursue graft cases against Zardari with the Swiss government.
Ashraf was elected in a two-way contest during a special session of Parliament after three other candidates – Shahabuddin and Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman – withdrew from the race. He was nominated by the party for the post after its original candidate, Shahabuddin, was forced to withdraw as an arrest warrant was issued for him in connection with alleged irregularities in the import of a controlled drug during his tenure as the Health Minister.
Ashraf, who was elected to the National Assembly from Gujar Khan constituency in Rawalpindi district - both in 2002 and 2008 - served twice in the cabinet of Gilani.
He resigned from Gilani's cabinet in February last year after allegations of corruption in power projects.
He returned to the cabinet in April this year when he was appointed minister for Information Technology.
Ashraf's candidature was backed by PML-Q, a major ally of the PPP with more than 50 seats in the National Assembly.
The current strength of the National Assembly is 339,following the death of PPP leader Fauzia Wahab, the disqualification of Gilani and the suspension of PPP leader Farahnaz Ispahani on the ground of dual nationality.
The PPP and its allies, which enjoy slightly more than a simple majority in the 342-member National Assembly or lower house of parliament, faced no problems in the election of Ashraf, who held several portfolios in Gilani’s cabinet. The PPP alone has 124 lawmakers while its allies have 58 seats.
The election was conducted by a division of votes after the doors of the House were shut for the polling shortly after 6.30 pm. The session began almost an hour behind schedule as many lawmakers were late in reaching the House.
Shortly before the session began, PPP leaders Shahabuddin and Kaira announced their withdrawal from the election.
The election was necessitated because a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary disqualified Gilani on Tuesday in response to several petitions that had challenged the National Assembly Speaker's decision not to disqualify the premier following his conviction of contempt.
The apex court ruled that the post of premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Zardari.
Dogged by controversies
An agriculturist before entering politics, Raja Pervez Ashraf was born on Dec 26, 1950, in Sanghar town of Sindh province.
Ashraf was the federal minister for water and power, and information and technology in the government of ousted prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
He hails from a family of agriculturists and that remained his occupation too until he joined the PPP, Dawn News reported.
Ashraf received a graduate degree from the University of Sindh in 1970. He and his wife have two sons and two daughters, and they live in Gujar Khan.
He was elected to the National Assembly in 2002 from the Rawalpindi-II constituency.
Ashraf is a member of many committees in the National Assembly, including the Standing Committee on Kashmir and the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights.
Ashraf, as energy minister 2008-2011, was also mired in a corruption scandal involving private leases of power plants, the Post said.
Dawn News said he was accused of receiving kickbacks in a power project and is currently defending himself in the Supreme Court.
The apex court declared Ashraf involved in the power project scam and revoked his power as the minister for water and power. However, when the federal cabinet was expanded, Ashraf was given the ministry of information and technology.
He has also been accused of buying property abroad with illegal money. WITH INPUTS FROM IANS
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 23 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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