Pakistan's new prime minister to be elected on Monday

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Islamabad, Mar 20 (UNI) Pakistan will get a new prime minister on Monday when the National Assembly meets to elect the leader of the House, ending nearly a month long speculation over the occupant of the top office.

President Pervez Musharraf today summoned the National Assembly to meet on March 24 to elect a Prime Minister.

''The President has been pleased to summon the National Assembly for ascertainment of the member who commands the confidence of the majority of members of the assembly,'' President's spokesman Major General (Retd) Rashid Qureshi was quoted by the official Associated Press of Pakistan as saying.

The President received the summary from the Prime Minister Secretariat this morning and has summoned the session to meet at 1600 hrs on Monday, the spokesman said.

Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which emerged as the single largest party in the February 18 elections to the 342-member National Assembly, is reported to have selected the party's candidate for the post of prime minister but yet to make it public.

Several senior PPP leaders were quoted by a leading daily as saying that party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was ''deliberately'' delaying the announcement for political reasons.

They said the candidate had been chosen but it was yet to be decided how to announce the decision.

Mr Zardari's name has been doing the rounds but he is not an elected member of the Assembly. He could contest byelection to become prime minister, sparking speculation that the immediate occupant could only be a stop gap arrangement.

The main contenders for the top job are Makhdoom Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who was the frontrunner in the race for prime ministership and the senior most party leader, dropped out after he went public with his criticism of the decision making process in the party and alleged contacts with the President and his aides.

Political analysts, however, believe that the party may spring a surprise and someone other than the three of four people whose names are doing the rounds may become the prime minister.

UNI XC YA HT1952

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