Raja Pervez Ashraf.—AFP Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate Raja Pervaiz Asharaf has been elected as the 25th Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Ashraf, a unanimously agreed candidate of the PPP and its coalition partners, received 211 votes while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) candidate Sardar Mehtab Abbasi received 89 votes.

Soon after being named PM, Ashraf vowed to hold free and fair elections and sought the opposition's support for the carrying on with the democratic process. He also promised to address the issues plaguing Balochistan and promised "peaceful co-existence" with neighbours India and Afghanistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari congratulated Ashraf on his success and said " Ashraf's election as PM is an indication of the nation's confidence in democracy."

The newly elected prime minister and a new federal cabinet was sworn in at the Presidency.

Twenty seven new federal ministers and 11 new ministers for state took oath; Most of them were also part of the previous cabinet as well.

Federal Ministers: Farzana Raja, Naveed Qamar, Farooq H Naek,Firdous Ashiq Awan, Ahmad Mukhtar, Khuda Bakhsh Rajar, Babar Khan Ghauri, Manzoor Watto, Maula Baksh Chandio, Hafeez Shaikh Khursheed Shah, Sardar Mohmmad Gorganj, Mir Changez Jamali, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Nazar Muhammad Gondal,Mir Hazar Khan Bajarani and Rana Farooq Saeed.

State Ministers: Moazzam Ali Jatoi, Raheela Baloch, Dost Muhammad Mazari, Dr Nadeem Ehsan, Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi, Samsam Ahmed Bukhari, Azmat Khan, Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, Nawabzada Malik Emad, Sardar Saleem Haider and Abbas Khan Afridi.

Fazl backed off

The third candidate, Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, withdrew his candidacy and decided to remain impartial in the election process by not casting his vote.

Earlier today, negotiations between the PML-N and the JUI-F over the nomination of a new prime minister ended futile.

The PML-N delegation held a meeting with the JUI-F chief at his residence in a bid to persuading him into supporting the PML-N’s candidate Sardar Mehtab Abbasi for the premiership.

Fazl had said: “considering the political situation of the country, he wanted that both the opposition and the government should have an agreement on the candidate for the premier’s office.”

“That is why I filed my nomination papers,” he added.

Challenges for the new PM

Following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the PPP’s Yousuf Raza Gilani as premier and the issuance of arrest warrants for their first nominee Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Raja Pervez Ashraf had emerged as the main coalition’s preferred candidate as prime minister — a controversial choice, many say.

Ashraf is steeped in controversy. Currently fighting a corruption case from his tenure as water and power minister, he has also been blamed for much of the government’s inability to resolve a disastrous energy crisis.

Ashraf may also come under immediate pressure from the Supreme Court to write to Swiss authorities, asking them to reopen corruption investigations into President Asif Ali Zardari – refusal for which saw Gilani convicted of contempt.

Ashraf had said his focus was the power crisis, which he promised to resolve despite being widely criticised for incompetence while at the power ministry from March 2008 to February 2011.

“Our first priority will be to resolve the power crisis,” he said. “I hope soon we will find a solution,” he added.

Before the parliamentary session, the PPP and its coalition partners held a meeting.

After the meeting PPP’s Syed Khurshid Shah had confirmed Ashraf’s nomination, he conceded that the government was heading towards an election. Its five-year mandate expires in early 2013.

“If we have committed some mistakes or did not fulfill our manifesto, then the decision should be left to the people of Pakistan,” he had said.

Statement by the US State Department

The United States Friday welcomed the election of a new prime minister in Pakistan eyeing an end to the political upheaval in its key, but wary regional Asian ally, AFP reported.

“We are pleased that the leadership issue appears to have been settled,”State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

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