After three days of uncertainty, Pakistan on Friday evening got its new Prime Minister in Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) loyalist Raja Parvez Ashraf, who enters the office with a corruption case, already in the Supreme Court, that earned him the nickname ‘Raja Rental’.
Despite the acrimony seen in the week, the elections were conducted smoothly and in a spirit of camaraderie between the ruling and opposition benches. The choice of candidate notwithstanding, the smooth transition came as a relief and was hailed by the national broadcaster as a “first.” Just the continuation of the prevailing system was seen as a big achievement, given the turbulent political history of the country.
Mr. Ashraf was elected premier with 211 votes in the National Assembly, well above the halfway mark of 172. Though there were five candidates after the close of withdrawals on Thursday afternoon, it was a straight fight between the PPP and the PML(N). While the PPP withdrew its other two nominees in the morning itself after finalising its candidate, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) opted out on the floor of the House and abstained from voting.
Apart from the court battles including the one that did his predecessor Yusuf Raza Gilani in, the biggest problem confronting Mr. Ashraf is the acute power crisis, as a result of which most parts of the country are getting barely a few hours of electricity every day. This led to large-scale rioting across Punjab earlier this week, and Mr. Ashraf has promised to deal with this issue on a priority basis; an assurance that has instilled little confidence because he had been Minister for Water and Power for three years before being dropped from the Cabinet in February 2011.