Islamabad: Leader of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari has chosen veteran politician Makhdoom Shahabuddin as the replacement for ousted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, state-run media reported on Thursday.
"President Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, has nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin as a candidate for the prime minister," state-run PTV reported.
Shahbuddin, 65, held several portfolios like health and textiles in Gilani's Cabinet. He will file his nomination papers for the election of the premier by the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament later on Thursday, it said.
Senior PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf, who has served as Power Minister, will be the party's alternative candidate in case Shahabuddin's nomination papers are rejected for some reason.
The Supreme Court disqualified Gilani in response to several petitions that had challenged the National Assembly Speaker's decision not to disqualify the premier following his conviction of contempt.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry further ruled that the post of premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Zardari.
In a symbolic gesture, Shahabuddin, a Bhutto family loyalist, will file his nomination papers for the post of premier on the birth anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, the slain former chairperson of the PPP.
The President on Wednesday summoned a special session of the National Assembly at 5.30 pm on June 22 to elect the new Prime Minister. Speaker Fehmida Mirza will chair the session.
According to a schedule issued by the National Assembly Secretariat for the election of the new premier, nomination papers will be accepted till 2 pm on Thursday. The Speaker will scrutinise the papers at 3 pm and candidates whose nominations are in order will be eligible to contest the poll.
After the election on Friday, the majority candidate will emerge as the Prime Minister-elect. After taking oath, the new premier will seek a vote of confidence from the House.
Shahabuddin, who was born on April 7, 1947 in Rahim Yar Khan district of Punjab, is expected to face no problems in the election.
He belongs to a political family and has been elected to the National Assembly several times.
He served as the Finance Minister in the PPP government during 1993-96 when Benazir Bhutto was the premier. He held the health and textiles portfolios in the current PPP-led government formed after the 2008 election.
Shahabuddin's father Makhdoom Hamiduddin, too, was a PPP loyalist.
An economist by profession, Shahabuddin belongs to a spiritual family of southern Punjab that is revered by many.