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New prime minister unlikely to end Pakistan's political scuffles

Raja Pervez Ashraf was selected to be the new Pakistani prime minister today, just three days after his predecessor was ousted by the Supreme Court in an ongoing political struggle.

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Pakistan's Prime Minister-elect Raja Pervez Ashraf waves to media after a meeting with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (not pictured) head of coalition party Pakistan Muslim League Quaid in Islamabad June 22.

Reuters

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Pakistan's national assembly selected a new prime minister Friday, just three days after the Pakistani Supreme Court effectively dismissed the previous prime minister.  But the election of Raja Pervez Ashraf to fill the prime minister's seat is unlikely to resolve an ongoing political tussle between Pakistan's executive and judicial powers.

The election of Mr. Ashraf, Pakistan's former minister for Information Technology, follows several days of political maneuvering between Pakistan's highest court and its ruling party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). On Tuesday, the Supreme Court declared former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ineligible to hold office due to a prior conviction, dissolving Mr. Gilani's cabinet. The PPP put forward Textile Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin to replace Gilani, but the courts effectively blocked Mr. Shahabuddin's nomination by issuing an arrest warrant for him.

The motive behind the court's decisions to dismiss Gilani and to issue the warrant for Shahabuddin has divided observers. Some accuse the court of deliberately undermining the democratically elected PPP, and point out that Gilani's dismissal and the warrant for Shahabuddin were issued at the behest of a military-run anti-drug agency, suggesting the quiet intervention of the politically powerful Army. Others say that the court is following through on its constitutional responsibility. Most, however, think the tussle indicates personal vendettas rather than principled stances.

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