The Next Prime Minister: Amin Fahim Out?

As late as a few days ago, Amin Fahim was widely believed to be the People’s Party’s prime ministerial nominee.  His fate has since changed.  The potential candidate pool has grown.  There is a reported trust deficit between Fahim and party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.  The basis for this is unclear; Fahim is as loyal and complacent as it gets.

There are also indications that Zardari won’t run for a National Assembly seat in the by-elections and will play a Sonia Gandhi-type role (governing through proxy).  If that is the case, then Zardari would need a capable, but not wholly independent prime minister.

The alternatives to Fahim–Ahmed Mukhtar, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Shah Mahmood Qureshi–are all from Punjab.  Zardari perhaps seeks a Punjabi prime minister to project his party’s reach beyond Sindh, but at the same time, a premier from one of the smaller provinces could also strengthen the federation.  However, a Zardari presidency could also do the trick.

Mukhtar defeated Shujaat Hussain in the latter’s hometown of Gujrat in the recent elections.   A correspondent for GEO also stated that Mukhtar, who was previously commerce minister, has good ties with the business community, which the People’s Party leadership values due to the current economic troubles.  Gilani is a former National Assembly speaker.  Qureshi is perhaps the most urbane and articulate candidate among the four.  Articulate and Cambridge-educated, he has the capacity to speak authoritatively for the party in both Urdu and English, which is necessary given Pakistan’s global challenges.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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