ISLAMABAD, March 17: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Monday named Dr Fahmida Mirza and Faisal Karim Kundi as its candidates for the posts of speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, in a move that observers said could affect the choice of the prime minister and cause ripples in the party.

The election for the two offices is due on Wednesday when the lower house of parliament will meet at 11am.

The 51-year-old Dr Mirza, who became an MNA for the third consecutive term from Badin, will be the first woman speaker of the National Assembly.

She is an agriculturist and businesswoman by profession, although she is a medical graduate from the Liaquat Medical College, Jamshoro. Mr Kundi has been elected to the National Assembly for the first time.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the party leadership had asked the candidates to file their nomination papers on Tuesday. Dr Mirza will face Sardar Israr Tareen of the PML-Q from Balochistan and Mr Kundi’s opponent will be Khushbakht Shujaat of the MQM.

The decision to nominate Dr Mirza as speaker could further diminish the chances of Makhdoom Amin Fahim to become prime minister as it is largely believed that after giving the two main parliamentary offices to Sindh and the NWFP, the leader of the house must be from Punjab.

Sources told Dawn that there was great resentment within the PPP over Mr Zardari’s decision to nominate Dr Mirza. A PPP MNA from Sindh said the decision could be “disastrous” for the party because it appeared that Mr Zardari was interested in accommodating his friends.

Dr Mirza is the wife of Zulfiqar Mirza, MPA-elect from Sindh and a close friend of Mr Zardari. The sources said Mr Mirza was also expected to get a good position in the Sindh cabinet.

Meanwhile, Makhdoom Amin Fahim met Mr Zardari for the third time in a week, ostensibly in an effort to resolve their differences over the nomination of a candidate for the prime minister’s post.

The special committee of the PPP and the PML-N met to discuss the distribution of cabinet positions among the coalition partners. Sources said the meeting ended without any agreement because of differences on allocation of some ministries.

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