ISLAMABAD, June 20: Like its CEC and coalition partners overnight, the PPP’s parliamentary party on Wednesday also left it entirely to President Asif Ali Zardari to name the party’s candidate for the next prime minister.
“No names were suggested or discussed at the meeting which was attended by about 100 parliamentarians,” a PPP lawmaker told Dawn after the two-hour meeting at the Presidency presided over jointly by President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani who is the vice-chairman of the party.
But one significant decision taken at the meeting was to hold “a full-fledged debate in the National Assembly on the removal of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani” from the office of prime minister through a court order.
Political analysts believe that it will be a real challenge for President Zardari, who won accolades for his choice of Mr Gilani for the coveted office of the country’s chief executive some four years ago, to find another “true loyalist”.
This time the task is more daunting for Mr Zardari because he needs a person ready to sacrifice his political career because like Mr Gilani he also may face legal wrangling and may be asked by the Supreme Court to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen the alleged graft cases against the president.
Background interviews with a number of PPP leaders, including some senior members who are considered to be close to the president, reveal that Mr Zardari has once again adopted the same old strategy of keeping his choice close to his chest and is assessing the feelings within the party ranks and among the coalition partners by letting the people indulge in a guessing game.
Soon after becoming the single largest party in the 2008 general elections, Zardari House, the residence of the PPP co-chairman, became a hub of political activities with a series of meetings with party leaders and other political players when the PPP was in search of a suitable candidate for the prime minister’s office.
At that time the media had established permanent camps to keep a watch on visitors to the Zardari House and kept on floating various names which the party never confirmed or denied. But now all activities are taking place at the Presidency, away from the media glare.
Besides Mr Gilani, the media in 2008 had mentioned the names of Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar as possible candidates for the prime minister’s office.
Later, President Zardari in some interviews confirmed that he had considered all those names before nominating Mr Gilani, thus implying that perhaps the names had intentionally been leaked by him to assess the political reaction and the response of the party.
And again names of several PPP leaders as the country’s new prime minister have been in circulation since Tuesday when Mr Gilani was disqualified by the Supreme Court. But, according to sources, not even a single name came under discussion in all the meetings which have taken place at the Presidency to discuss the post-Gilani situation.
The names of Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Syed Khursheed Shah, Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Faisal Karim Kundi, Hina Rabbani Khar and Samina Khalid Ghurki are being mentioned by the media as possible PPP candidates for the PM’s office.
But as the media goes on discussing the plus and minus points of all the possible candidates the Presidency has chosen to keep mum.