Pakistani parliament elects new prime minister

The New York Times reports: The Pakistani Parliament on Friday elected Raja Pervez Ashraf, a controversial former cabinet minister, as prime minister, offering a brief respite from a wider confrontation between the government and judiciary that many say is pushing Pakistan toward an early general election.

Members of Parliament cast 211 votes for Mr. Ashraf versus 89 for a token opposition candidate after the Pakistan Peoples Party, which leads the coalition government, announced its support for Mr. Ashraf.

Mr. Ashraf was a contentious choice, dogged by corruption accusations and partly blamed for the severe electricity crisis that triggered violent riots in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, early this week. A large faction inside the ruling party vocally opposed his election, party officials said.

President Asif Ali Zardari endorsed Mr. Ashraf on Friday after days of judicial intrigues and political turbulence that had shaken the country’s fragile democratic foundations.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed the previous prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, because he had refused to restart a long-dormant corruption case against Mr. Zardari in Switzerland. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said Mr. Gilani had committed contempt by refusing the court’s orders and was no longer fit for public office. Critics countered that the court was playing a dangerous political game.

Then, on Thursday, a lower court blocked Mr. Zardari’s preferred choice for prime minister, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, after the military-controlled Anti-Narcotics Force obtained a warrant for Mr. Shahabuddin’s arrest on drug charges.

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