The Pakistan Peoples Party Saturday named ex-parliamentary speaker Yousuf Raza Gilani as its candidate to be the country’s new prime minister. “I have great pleasure in calling upon Yousuf Raza Gilani in the name of Shaheed (martyr) Benazir Bhutto to accept the heavy responsibility to lead the coalition government and the nation”,” said a statement by Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari that was read out to reporters by party spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
The statement said that Gilani was the “consensus” candidate of the coalition. Gilani is a stalwart figure in the PPP and friend of Zardari who spent five years in jail under Musharraf’s regime on corruption charges that were later overturned. He was speaker during Benazir’s second term in power from 1993 to 1996 and a minister during her first term from 1988 to 1990. Party spokesman Farhatullah Babar would not comment on reports that Gilani would be a stop-gap premier until Zardari, who is not an MP, becomes eligible to stand for the post by contesting a by-election in May. The party struggled to settle on a candidate amid a power vacuum left by the charismatic Bhutto’s assassination in December, with Gilani emerging only in the last week.
It was surprising to see the announcment made by a press statement unlike the much anticpated annoucbment by Bilawal (Zardari) Bhutto. The other contenders were ex-trade minister Ahmed Mukhtar, party president Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Punjab province party chief Shah Mahmood Qureshi