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PPP in turmoil over Zardari's PM bid

The PPP is in turmoil over its co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's prime ministerial aspirations as this is being seen as impacting on the attempts of party stalwart Makhdoom Amin Fahim to occupy the slot.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Islamabad
UPDATED ON FEB 07, 2008 01:56 PM IST

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is in turmoil over its co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's prime ministerial aspirations as this is being seen as impacting on the attempts of party stalwart Makhdoom Amin Fahim to occupy the slot if the PPP is voted to power in the Feb 18 General Election.

Zardari's remarks, though immediately denied, "gave credibility to the whisper campaign within the PPP focusing on whether Zardari or Amin Fahim should be the party's nominee for the premiership", The News said on Thursday.

"Two developments - Zardari's public expression of his intention to vie for the top position and the release of slain Benazir Bhutto's handwritten will threw up Zardari as the genuine and undisputed leader of the PPP and also tended to set at rest 'doubts' about the veracity of the will," the newspaper added.

Newsweek has quoted Zaradari as saying: "There is no one single personality (in the party), apart from me, who anybody even knows. No one else has a consensus. The fact of the matter is that there's nobody in the party with my seniority who's been to prison for 11 years."

According to The News: "this also grossly discounts Amin Fahim's prospects and depicts him as a man not enjoying consensus in the PPP for the top slot. But it did open a Pandora's box that may create a rift in the PPP even before many might have predicted or wished".

For quite some time, two lobbies have been quietly pushing different names, including that of Zardari, for the prime ministerial slot if the PPP sails through the general election. During private conversations, their leading members left no doubt about their priorities for the top position.

"Anybody to be nominated by the PPP for the office immediately after the parliamentary elections would be a stopgap prime minister to vacate the position for Zardari, who would be elected to the National Assembly in the by-polls for the Larkana seat of Benazir Bhutto," The News quoted a top source close to the PPP co-chairman as saying.

He added that it was wrong to assert that Amin Fahim was ever selected for the slot, pointing out that while Zardari had stated at his maiden press conference after Bhutto's assassination that Amin Fahim would be the party's candidate for the top rank, he had also made it clear that the party's central executive committee (CEC) would take the final decision on the issue.

Those keen to see Amin Fahim as the prime minister say he is the only one in the PPP whom the Pakistani establishment - read President Pervez Musharraf and the army - would accept for the top position.

"They say Amin Fahim was the best person for the moment and was acceptable to all and sundry in the political arena. Even the (erstwhile ruling) PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid), which was staunchly opposed to Zardari, has no reservations against Amin Fahim because he has developed a remarkable rapport with all political players," The News said.

"They feel and believe that since a coalition of the PPP and PML-Q could be pushed by the establishment after the general elections, the PPP has to put up a candidate who can work with the PML-Q," the newspaper noted.

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