Pakistan Peoples Party Reportedly Selects PM Nominee

Although it is not revealing a name, the Pakistan Peoples Party appears to have selected its choice for the country's next prime minister. But, as VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Islamabad, the selection of the nominee has caused a rift in the party on which hopes have been placed to bring Pakistan back to democracy.

A month after the national election, which revived hopes of Pakistan quickly returning to democratic government, there are growing signs of an internal crisis in the party which won the most votes.

The Pakistan Peoples Party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has yet to announce who it wants to lead the government. The delay has raised questions about if and when the PPP will be able govern a country facing substantial political, economic and security issues.

PPP leader Nabeel Gabol says someone has finally been chosen, after considering five candidates.

"Party has decided on the nomination of the prime minister. The name has been finalized and it is up to the party when to announce it," said Gabol.

The runner-up in the February election, the Muslim League faction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has agreed to support the PPP's nominee.

But the party of the late Mrs. Bhutto appears to be rife with dissension over the nominee.

Party President Makhdoom Amin Fahim wants the job. He led the party for seven years while Mrs. Bhutto was in exile. Fahim says he will only yield to the late Mrs. Bhutto's husband, party Co-Chair Asif Ali Zardari. If someone else is chosen, Fahim could splinter the PPP.

Fahim's name raises concern among some in parliament, who have doubts he will be able to confront President Pervez Musharraf. The fate of Mr. Musharraf remains uncertain. There are lawmakers eager for impeachment proceedings against the president and former Army chief, still regarded as a dictator by some.

Zardari, initially reluctant to put forward his name for prime minister, appears to have changed his mind.

Party leaders have hinted that Zardari could choose an interim candidate until the businessman can win his own parliament seat, making himself eligible.

Zardari - known as "Mr. Ten Percent" for alleged corruption during his wife's time in office - has seen all outstanding graft charges against him dropped.

All eyes are now on the 19-year-old son of Zardari and the slain former prime minister. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has flown home from the United Kingdom, where is a college student. Media reports here say the young party chairman will announce the name of the prime ministerial candidate and appeal for party unity, as the surviving son of the Bhutto dynasty.

The new National Assembly needs to approve the prime minister. That could happen within a week.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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