Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani of Pakistan Peoples Party has been elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Mr Gillani won the parliamentary vote by 264 votes to the 42 of Musharraf ally Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.
Who is Yusuf Raza Gillani? He belongs to a prominent feudal-spiritual family in the south Punjab city of Multan. His family has been active in politics in the area since the early 20th century. Mr Gilani was first elected chairman of the Union Council, Multan in the 1983 local bodies elections during Zia rule. Then he joined Junejo’s government as a minister of housing and railways. He parted ways with the Junejo Muslim League and joined Benazir Bhutto’s PPP around the time Junejo’s government was dismissed in 1988 by Zia.
In 1993, during the second Benazir Bhutto government, he was elected Speaker of the National Assembly. In 1995, Mr Gillani, as Speaker, issued instructions for the release of parliamentarians detained by his own PPP government. When the interior ministry refused to oblige, he had the matter brought on record.
He, like most PPP candidates in Punjab, lost the 1997 election when Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N(Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz Group) swept the province. Then, during Musharraf’s martial law in 2001, Gillani was convicted over illegal government appointments when he was Speaker. He spent the next five years in jail, being released in late 2006 on a court order.
In a maiden speech on the floor of National Assembly after he was elected as Prime Minister, he said, “I request the national assembly as my first job to pass a resolution for UN probe into the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.”
Elaborating the top priorities of the new government, the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani vowed to take all out efforts for the supremacy of parliament.
He also said the National Assembly should pass another resolution to apologize to the nation for hanging of Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto.
Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani also said that he would issue the immediate directives for release of the held judges.
Gillani also vowed to take efforts for the resolution of multiple problems of people, saying, “ We realize that the people of the country confront several problems including shortage of electrify.”
“Today, democracy has been restored thanks to the great sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto,” the 55-year-old Gilani, wearing a dark suit and tie, said in his first speech to parliament.
“I invite all political forces to join us because the country is facing such a crisis that a single man cannot save it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice deposed by Musharraf’s “emergency” last year and under house arrest since then came out of his house and was greeted by supporters.
Deposed chief justice, Chaudhry Iftikhar Muhammad Chuadhry along with his family members came out of his house Monday evening, marking an end to his and his family’s more than five month long detention.
People who gathered outside Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s residence warmly welcomed him when he came out with his family members.
He acknowledged the welcoming slogans of the people by waving his hands.
President Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitezaz Ahsan and Justice (Retd.) Tariq Mehmood and others accompanied Chaudhry Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The lawyers movement’s demands, including the restoration of the large number of superior court judges, would probably be the first important task for this government. President Musharraf has claimed that it is not constitutionally possible to bring the judges back, but then Musharraf’s action itself wasn’t constitutional.
There has been lots of speculation about why Yusuf Raza Gilani was chosen for the Prime Ministerial slot. In my opinion, there are a number of factors. First, Zardari wanted someone who did not have power on his own and was dependent on Zardari. The election of Fehmida Mirza as Speaker was also part of the same process, as she and her husband MPA Zulfiqar Mirza are close to Asif Zardari.
Second, both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif probably wanted someone who had remained completely loyal and had not had any kind of relationship with Musharraf.
Third, Zardari would like to be able to have the option to remove the current Prime Minister for another or even for himself later as well as keep his kingmaker role now with a lot of behind the scenes power. A somewhat weak Prime Minister would fit right in for that strategy. Yusuf Raza Gillani’s statement after being nominated about staying as PM only as long as the party wants him to is suggestive in this regard.
Fourth, once the idea of a Prime Minister from Punjab was floated, it was in Nawaz Sharif’s interest for the PPP to select someone from the southern feudal families since such a choice wouldn’t encroach on the PML-N’s stronghold in the more urban central and northern Punjab.
I, on the other hand, would have preferred Zardari himself as Prime Minister because that would be a much more transparent system with fewer power centers.