Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pakistan to get its first woman speaker

Fahmida Mirza is all set to become the first woman speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly.

The Pakistan People's Party on Tuesday nominated 51-year-old Mirza, a medical graduate, and Faisal Karim Kundi as its candidates for the posts of speaker and deputy speaker respectively of the Lower House of Parliament.

The two candidates are expected to win as the Pakistan People's Party and its allies -- Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Awami National Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam -- have a majority in the National Assembly.

If she is elected, Mirza will be the first woman speaker of Pakistan.

The deadline for the filing of nomination papers for the two posts ended at noon on Tuesday.

Polling for the posts will be held through secret ballot at 11 am on Wednesday and the new speaker will take charge as custodian of the House the same day.

The nominations were made by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari very late on Monday night following weeks of consultations with the party's MPs and its allies.

Mirza comes from a political family of Sindh province. She is the wife of Zulfiqar Mirza, a member of the Sindh provincial assembly and a close aide of Zardari.

She won in the February 18 polls from the coastal district of Badin.

Kundi, who was elected to the National Assembly for the first time, is a youngster who was personally groomed by slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto [Images].

He defeated Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal secretary general Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the polls in the latter's traditional stronghold of Dera Ismail Khan.

The PPP, which emerged as the largest group with 120 seats in the 342-member House, is set to form government with its coalition partners. According to an agreement signed by the PPP and PML-N, the candidates for prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker will be from the PPP.

But the PPP has not yet resolved its differences over the nomination of a candidate for premiership.

PPP vice chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a front-runner for the premiership, was sidelined by Zardari following reports that he had secretly met President Pervez Musharraf [Images] and members of the military establishment.

A majority of MPs have suggested that Zardari should become prime minister after contesting by-elections.

After meeting Zardari late on Monday night, Fahim said he too had proposed that PPP co-chairman should become prime minister.

There was no word from the party on Zardari's reaction to Fahim's proposal.

Senior PPP leader Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah has said that the nominee for premiership will be announced by March 20.

"The future prime minister will be announced by March 20. There are four to five candidates for the top slot and the final decision will be taken after consulting our coalition partners," he said.



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