Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, a former minister for water and power, was named the PM nominee by the Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, on Friday, following three days of political chaos that have been extraordinary even by Pakistani standards.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani on the basis of a contempt conviction, citing that he was disqualified from holding office over his failure to investigate President Asif Ali Zardari for alleged money laundering charges dating back to the 1990s.
Subsequently, the next PM nominee proposed by PPP, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, another former minister, was ordered arrested by a judge in connection with illegal medical drug imports when he served as health minister. (Shahabuddin was Zardari’s first choice as Gilani‘s successor.)
This labyrinthine process has now led to Ashraf, a man who is accused of having received kickbacks in rental power projects and using that money to illegally purchase properties in London during his tenure as Pakistan’s water and power minister.
The 62-year-old Ashraf resigned from that post in February 2011 under a cloud of corruption allegations, although he denied any wrongdoing on his part.
Ashraf returned to government as information technology minister in April 2012 in Gilani’s cabinet.
Ashraf is reportedly still under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau, or NAB, the anti-corruption watchdog of the Pakistani government.
Nonetheless, Ashraf’s candidacy will be presented to Parliament on Friday, with an eye towards an early election next year.
M. Ilyas Khan, a BBC correspondent in Islamabad, looked at the broader picture of politics in a country that has been ruled by the military for much of its 60-plus-year history.
“Many in Pakistan see these developments as signs that the skirmishes between the judiciary, the military and the civilian government are now erupting into all-out war,” he wrote.
“This is all happening at a time when the country can least afford it -- relations with the West are at an all-time low, the economy is heading for disaster, and people are battling severe power and fuel shortages.
“A major part of the problem lies in the traditional domination of the military in Pakistan and the fact that the judiciary has supported successive attempts by the generals to cut the politicians down to size,” Khan added.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.