Khosa, Awan lead race for governor Zardari keeps cards close to his chest
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: Former attorney general Sardar Latif Khosa and Law Minister Babar Awan, two most trusted aides of President Asif Ali Zardari and candidates for the slot of Punjab governor, spent the whole day with him in Karachi on Saturday, lending credence to speculation that one of them could be chosen for the post.
Sources in the Pakistan People’s Party, however, tipped Mr Khosa as the front-runner.
The possibility that Mr Khosa will fill the post of governor rose after he was called by the President to Karachi, where the party leaders were debating names for the governorship.
But there was one source of worry for Latif Khosa _ Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had some reservations over his nomination, sources in PPP told Dawn.
“President Zardari spent a busy day in Bilawal House in Karachi and continued consultations with PPP leaders to reach a consensus over nomination of the next governor,” said presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
The office of the Punjab governor fell vacant after Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his own security guard in Islamabad on Tuesday.
Although, Mr Khosa, Babar Awan and Aitzaz Ahsan were said to be in the frontline, the president did not want to relieve Mr Awan of the law minister’s portfolio since he is popular with the legal fraternity.
Another probable, Aitzaz Ahsan, has shown reluctance to become governor.
President Zardari had a long meeting with Mr Khosa, but details were not released.
Mr Khosa, who is a lawyer by profession, is at present pursuing important cases of President Zardari that reopened after scrapping of the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
There is no doubt that the PPP, which has been struggling to gain footing in Punjab, has got a severe blow after Mr Taseer’s murder.
Political analysts said the appointment of the new governor would be a real leadership test for President Zardari, who had been described as a ‘shrewd man’ even by the slain Punjab governor in a TV interview.
They believed that the governor’s appointment would determine the future course of the PPP: whether it wanted to reconcile with the PML-N or was it raring for a fight for the biggest political prize.
An aide to President Zardari said that the name of Mr Khosa had been approved by 99 per cent of the party’s decision-makers and most probably he would succeed Mr Taseer.
It is expected that the name of the new governor will be announced on Monday or Tuesday after the expiry of the deadline set by Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) for deciding the fate of PPP in Punjab.
The PML-N chief had announced that the provincial government would say goodbye to the PPP in the province on Monday.
The presidential spokesman said the PPP would not quit the provincial government on its own.
“Let PML-N throw out PPP from the Punjab government,” he said.
The PPP, he added, would chalk out its future in the light of decision to be taken by Nawaz Sharif.