ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's ruling party has confirmed it will nominate outgoing textile minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin as its candidate for prime minister Thursday, moving quickly after the former prime minister was ousted by the Supreme Court for contempt of court, a presidential spokesman said.
Shahabuddin, who is considered a Pakistan People's Party loyalist, will file nomination papers in parliament by midday, said presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar. The PPP's coalition has a majority in parliament and barring last minute surprises is expected to be able to vote him into office in a session scheduled for Friday.
Yousuf Gilani was dismissed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday for contempt of court for failing to initiate a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the PPP. That was the climax of a bruising power struggle between the government and activist judges. PPP politicians almost immediately began to circulate Shahabuddin's name as a replacement.
The next prime minister will likely also face the same order from the Supreme Court to investigate Zardari, meaning political instability will continue until the government's term ends in March 2013. The Gilani government has been widely criticized for exacerbating or doing nothing to address the massive economic and security challenges in the country.
Stability in Pakistan is seen as vital to American goals of withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014 and long-term victory against international jihadist terrorism. But relations between Washington and Islamabad are strained over a host of issues, including blocked war supply lines to Afghanistan and Pakistan's alleged support for the Afghan Taliban.
The dismissal of Gilani has made it more likely that polls will now be held before next year, possibly as early as November. Elections in Pakistan must be held under a supposedly neutral caretaker government in place three months before polling day, meaning the current government could be dissolved as early as August.
Shahabuddin, 65, comes from a wealthy, landowning family based in the central Pakistani district of Rahim Yar Khan.
His father had served as minister in the cabinets of two Pakistani governments. He also served as minister for finance and health in the current government.