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June 29, 2012

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf faces new challenges in first week of premiership

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the recently-appointed Prime Minister of Pakistan, chaired his first cabinet meeting as premier Tuesday, using it to discuss ongoing power supply problems. The new PM is also coming under pressure from the Supreme Court to reopen a corruption probe into the President.

During the meeting, Ashraf directed the Ministry of Water and Power to recover outstanding dues pertaining to WAPDA from all federal and provincial government departments. He assured the cabinet that the current power cuts being enforced in the country would be taken to a manageable level within a time span of three months.

Following the disqualification of Yousaf Raza Gillani from premiership by the Supreme Court of Pakistan over a contempt of court conviction, Ashraf was appointed as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan in a National Assembly session. Gillani had been discharged from office for failing to open investigations over fraud and corruption charges associated with President Asif Ali Zardari.

Wednesday, just days into his first week in office, the Supreme Court has asked Ashraf to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari, a request which was previously placed upon Ashraf’s predecessor Gillani. The court has requested Ashraf’s response by July 12. The three-judge bench said it expected Ashraf would comply. However, Ashraf had earlier maintained the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had decided not to open the cases and commented that his stance on the issue was the same as Gillani’s. According to the PPP, the judiciary has not acted impartially in the matter.

Raja Pervez Ashraf was born in 1950 in the town of Sanghar in Sindh, where he was brought up. He graduated from the University of Sindh and was involved in agriculture before entering the field of politics. He is originally from Gujar Khan, a small town located in Rawalpindi district in northern Punjab province. Ashraf enjoys the reputation of being regarded as a senior politician of the PPP in the Rawalpindi region.

Prior to being elected as Prime Minister, Ashraf was the federal minister for Water and Power. His term in office oversaw a collapse and inefficiency in the country’s electricity supplies, for which he has been criticized. He has earned the nickname “Raja Rental” due to allegations of his involvement in receiving kickbacks from private rental power plants.

In his first address to the parliament as Prime Minister, Ashraf said “We are standing at a critical juncture. We can either move forward or lapse backward.” Within 24 hours of being elected into office, Ashraf convened a meeting to resolve and discuss the ongoing energy crisis in the country and directed the Ministry of Petroleum to ensure the supply of 28,000 tonnes of fuel daily to power plants, so as to add 1200 mega watts to the national grid system.


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