Realities of Pakistan's new prime minister

Many had hoped Yusuf Raza Gilani's replacement would restore calm after months of political instability, but there is a sinking feeling that appointing Raja Pervez Ashraf will guarantee the instability will continue.

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    Raja Pervez Ashraf has defied expectations to become Pakistan's 25th prime minister.

    The former Water and Power Minister has long been controversial. He's widely seen as corrupt for his alleged role in the rental of power projects, earning him the nickname Raja Rental. 
    Ashraf is also closely associated with the current energy crisis that has crippled the country and sparked widespread and violent protests. 

    The new prime minister disappoints in other ways too.  Many had hoped Yusuf Raza Gilani's replacement would restore calm after months of conflict between the government and the judiciary, but President Asif Ali Zardari's decision to pick him as the new leader almost guarantees the row will continue.

    Many believe the Supreme Court will order Ashraf to write to Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case involving the president, and that if he refuses, he too will meet the same fate as his predecessor – pushing the country into an even deeper political crisis.

    Fahd Husain, an Islamabad based political analyst and television presenter, says Ashraf is "a controversial person by all standards" and that he was also a "hugely incompetent minister".

    But Qamar Naveed, the outgoing Petroleum Minister for the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) says any allegations of corruption against Ashraf are baseless, and that "charges fly very freely in a country like Pakistan". 

    There are even further concerns. Many Pakistanis feel the multitude of problems facing the country will remain unsolved with Ashraf at the helm.

    Omar, who runs a kebab-stand in Islamabad, told me he had little hope for the new prime minister, saying, "he will fill his pockets and steal from the people. Everyone in government is corrupt." 

    Ashraf is a long time loyalist of the president who won't likely challenge Zardari's decisions.

    He's also been described as a "placeholder prime minister" whose legacy will be limited.

    Parliamentary elections are scheduled for next March, and could be held as late as June, but a senior member of the PPP said a vote will more likely be held later this year.

    So, whatever happens next, Pakistan's latest prime minister won't be in office for very long.


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