| Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who resigned as Prime Minister, with Pakistan Muslim League head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein (right) at an emergency party meeting in Islamabad. (AFP)
Islamabad, June 26: Zafarullah Khan Jamali finally stepped down as Prime Minister and dissolved his cabinet, ending a 19-month tenure during which he lost the confidence of President Pervez Musharraf.
In a two-step succession plan, Jamali nominated Pakistan Muslim League chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein as interim Prime Minister. Outgoing finance minister Shaukat Aziz will take over the premiership after the interim period is over.
The resignation ended six weeks of speculation on Jamali’s future who, according to sources close to President Pervez Musharraf, had failed to counter parliamentary opposition and aggressively pursue reform programmes.
These were the two key factors that distanced Musharraf from Jamali.
This became clear after the Pakistan President started meeting MPs individually and in groups to carry out his reform programme. In a meeting with MPs yesterday, Musharraf had made it clear that Jamali’s removal was inevitable.
The ailing Hussein will be elected in the National Assembly during a special session on Monday. However, he will take over only as interim Prime Minister. “Finance minister Shaukat Aziz will be the eventual Prime Minister,” a ruling party MP said. Aziz was a senior Citibank executive in New York before Musharraf invited him to Pakistan to help stabilise the economy in 1999.
Speaking during a crowded press conference, Jamali said: “After 37 days of speculation, I have decided to dissolve the cabinet and resign myself.” However, he refrained from naming the people or powers who ran a campaign against him.
“I have taken this decision to save the system and to work for the country,” Jamali said in the presence of the entire cabinet.
True to his image of a soft-spoken man, Jamali thanked everybody — from Musharraf to the cabinet ministers — for the cooperation they extended to him during his 20-month rule.
Musharraf has accepted the resignation but asked Jamali to continue as Prime Minister till the appointment of his successor, a senior government source said.
Jamali is the twentieth Prime Minister since independence and the first from southern Baluchistan, the province which is smallest in population but largest in area.
He assumed office on November 23, 2002, following elections in October. “I wonder where the establishment would find a more pliant and obedient person than Jamali,” said a PML legislator, Akhtar Kanju.
Observers say only time will tell whether differences over the social agenda was the only irritant between Jamali and Musharraf, who is supposed to resign as the army chief by December.
Jamali’s resignation will raise fresh concerns over the state of democracy in Pakistan, nearly two years after 2002 elections formally ended a military dictatorship.
The Opposition complains that Musharraf has stifled democracy since he ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The West has been slow to criticise Musharraf, a key player in the US-led war on terror, despite his continued domination of the political arena.