Musharraf's choice elected as new PM

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The Independent Online

Pakistan's parliament elected Shaukat Aziz as its new Prime Minister yesterday. President Pervez Musharraf named Mr Aziz as his choice as head of government. His relationship with the former prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, had deteriorated, precipitating Mr Jamali's resignation two months ago.

Pakistan's parliament elected Shaukat Aziz as its new Prime Minister yesterday. President Pervez Musharraf named Mr Aziz as his choice as head of government. His relationship with the former prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, had deteriorated, precipitating Mr Jamali's resignation two months ago.

Mr Aziz did have an opponent in the vote: Javed Hashmi, an outspoken critic of President Musharraf, but observers said Mr Hashmi never had any real chance of winning the post because General Musharraf's pro-military ruling party enjoys a large majority in parliament.

Mr Hashmi's party, the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) boycotted the vote after the Speaker ruled that he could not be freed from jail to attend the vote in person. Mr Hashmi ran his campaign from a Rawalpindi jail, where he is serving a life sentence for defaming the army.

By naming Mr Hashmi as its candidate, the opposition re-ignited the emotive issue of Mr Hashmi's life sentence, which many say was politically motivated.

Opposition leaders say yesterday's vote proves that President Musharraf is not truly committed to bringing democracy to Pakistan. "The Speaker took dictation from a dictator in uniform, and we reject his decision," Sadique al-Farooq, an ARD spokesman, said.

Mr Aziz worked for Citibank for three decades, but gave up his banking career to become Pakistan's finance minister in 1999, after General Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup. Mr Aziz has often been credited with turning around Pakistan's economic fortunes and his appointment will be welcomed by Pakistan's business class.

Diplomats in India are also hoping he will be a dedicated partner in peace talks between the neighbours.

Less than a month ago Mr Aziz narrowly escaped a suicide bombing attack while campaigning in the central province of Punjab. He will be sworn in as Prime Minister today.

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