Pakistan nominates ex-minister Raja as new PM

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's main ruling party on Friday named Raja Pervez Ashraf as its nominee for prime minister and hinted at possible early elections after a court issued an arrest warrant for its first choice.

Ashraf has been dogged by allegations of corruption and controversy from his tenure as water and power minister. He served as information technology minister until the Supreme Court dismissed prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday.

On Thursday, an anti-narcotics court took the unusual step of issuing an arrest warrant for former textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin over a drugs scandal. Shahabuddin had been President Asif Ali Zardari's first choice to succeed Gilani.

The lower house of parliament has been summoned to vote in the new prime minister at 5:30 pm (1230 GMT) on Friday.

"Raja Pervez Ashraf is our candidate," senior party official Syed Khurshid Shah told a news conference, hinting that the government could call an election before its mandate expires early next year.

"This is election year and we are going towards elections," Shah said.

"If we have committed some mistakes or did not fulfill our manifesto, then the decision should be left to the people of Pakistan."

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