ISLAMABAD, March 6: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) again put off on Thursday a decision about its candidate for the office of the prime minister.

Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said he wanted more discussions with newly elected MNAs before taking a final decision, allowing the guessing game to continue for another few days.

Political circles and even many newly-elected legislators were expecting that the meeting of the parliamentary group had been convened by Mr Zardari to announce the name of the prime minister, but they were surprised to find that it was just a ‘listening day’ for them.

Mr Zardari spoke at length on various subjects, including democracy, good governance, guidelines for the new government and challenges that the party could face after assuming power. He, however, did not allow any debate on any topic.

Later, Mr Zardari told a group of reporters that the party would nominate its candidate for the prime minister before the inaugural session of the National Assembly, adding the candidate would be nominated in accordance with the wishes of all members.

He said he would start consultative meetings with MNAs-elect from each division from Friday and listen to their views. After completion of this process, he said, the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) would announce the name of the prime minister.

In Thursday’s meeting, sources said, Mr Zardari gave a special treatment to Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar -- who was sitting in the back rows --- by asking him to find a seat in the front row.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that the meeting was attended by over 100 newly-elected MNAs.

He said the co-chairman had taken the MNAs-elect into confidence over the talks held so far with other political parties on government formation and the policies the party would pursue.

According to the sources, Mr Zardari did not invite any senior party leader including Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi to speak on any issue relating to the party’s future strategy.

The sources said that Mr Zardari told the members that PPP’s ministers would be appointed for a probationary period and their performance would be monitored on a regular basis.

He said the party would take lawyers into confidence on the issue of judicial crisis, adding that all major issues had been resolved with the coalition partners and some small matters remained to be sorted out.

According to Mr Babar, the co-chairman said he had decided not to be a candidate for the office of the prime minister and instead wished to devote time to strengthen the party rather than seeking a government office.

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