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PPP announces Raja Parvez Ashraf as PM candidate

Islamabad: The ruling Pakistan People`s Party today named former IT Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf as its candidate for the post of Prime Minister hours before a special session of Parliament convened to elect a new premier.

Senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah announced the name of the party`s nominee at a news conference held in Parliament. "After consulting the parties allied to us, the name given to me by the (PPP) leadership is that of Raja Parvez Ashraf", Shah said.

The National Assembly or lower house of Parliament is scheduled to elect the new premier at 5.30 pm. The election was necessitated by the ouster of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The PPP`s efforts to find a replacement for Gilani hit a snag yesterday after a special court issued an arrest warrant for Makhdoom Shahabuddin, the party`s original candidate for the post of premier, at the same time that he was filing his nomination papers.

Ashraf, who has been linked by the apex court to a scam over rental power projects during his tenure as Power Minister, had filed nomination papers as a "covering" candidate or alternative to Shahabuddin.

Qamar Zaman Kaira, another senior PPP leader, too had filed nomination papers but his candidature was opposed by the PML-Q, a key ally of the PPP. Shah said Ashraf was chosen as the prime ministerial candidate after consultations with the PPP`s allies over the past few days.

Leaders of other parties in the ruling coalition were present at the news conference. "In every difficult hour, our allies have stood by with us to ensure the defence of democracy and the supremacy of parliament. When we got the order from the judiciary, some people though the government would resist but our leadership and Prime Minister Gilani always said we have always accepted every order of the judiciary," Shah said.

Ashraf was born in Sanghar district of southern Sindh province on December 26, 1950. He was elected to parliament from a constituency in Rawalpindi in elections in 2002 and 2008. He has held the power and information technology portfolios in Gilani`s cabinet.

The Supreme Court 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.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry further 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 President Asif Ali Zardari.

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