Bhutto's party meets to nominate next prime minister of Pakistan
With leadership still in limbo, parliament plans to convene later this month.
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While Zardari is not currently a candidate for prime minister, several other senior party officials are vying for the job, and a decision may be reached Thursday, reports Agence France-Presse. Mr. Fahim, the front-runner, has struck a conciliatory tone towards Musharraf, telling CNN last month that there were no immediate plans to oust the embattled former Army chief.Skip to next paragraph
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Another contender is Ahmed Mukhtar, an industrialist who is close to Zardari and who defeated the chief of the pro-Musharraf party in the elections, party officials said.
Also in the running are Yousaf Raza Gilani, who served as parliamentary speaker for a time under Bhutto, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, head of the PPP's Punjab branch, they said.
Pakistan's daily newspaper Dawn says that Mr. Fahim is a veteran lawmaker from the PPP's power base in Sindh Province, where Ms. Bhutto's family lives. Political commentators have argued, however, that the party may nominate a candidate from the populous Punjab region to bolster its standing in the province. In last month's election, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif headed the field in Punjab. Mr. Sharif has agreed to join a PPP-led coalition, but the rivalry between the two parties is unlikely to end.
In India, The Hindu reports that the selection of a candidate from Punjab may be a tactic to pave the way for Zardari to eventually take over as prime minister. It says speculation in Islamabad suggests a "stop-gap arrangement" that would nominate a Punjabi, rather than Mr. Fahim, who is popular in the party and would be harder for Zardari to forceout. It also reports that the PPP is still working out the details of its coalition with Sharif's party, which is said to be reluctant to participate fully.
The battle over Musharraf and his rule is still driving Pakistani politics, reports The New York Times. Lawyers who spearheaded opposition to him last year are regrouping and calling for the reversal of Musharraf's purge of the judiciary, including the reinstatement of a former chief judge who remains under house arrest. Nor have the calls for impeaching Musharraf once parliament reconvenes gone away, adding to his difficulties.
Mr. Musharraf, much weakened since removing his uniform and since his political party sustained a resounding defeat at the polls, nevertheless retains one powerful weapon. Under controversial constitutional amendments, he has the power to dissolve Parliament and dismiss the government. He also has the right to appoint and remove the top officials of the armed forces.