Pakistan's parliament elects first female speaker

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The National Assembly of Pakistan has elected Fahmida Mirza of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as its first female speaker, weeks after the general elections which ousted President Pervez Musharraf's party and gave the PPP the most seats in Parliament.

Mirza, a former medical doctor who has previously served three terms in the National Assembly, was the joint candidate of the PPP, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N), the Awami National Party (ANP), and other allied parties.

She received 249 votes out of the 324 who were present. Her main rival candidate, Israr Tareen from the former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q), received only 70 votes.

The result was announced by Chaudhry Amir Hussain, the outgoing speaker. "Fahmida Mirza is declared to have been elected speaker of the National Assembly," he said, as other Parliament members pounded their desks in approval.

"This is my third tenure in the National Assembly and I believe it is time that we all work together to address the challenges facing the country," Mirza told reporters. "I am sure we will be able to face these challenges with the support of parliamentarians, our people and Pakistani media."

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a central PPP leader, said, "The election of Fahmida Mirza as speaker will be a big step towards the empowerment of women in Pakistan."

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, parliamentary leader of the pro-Musharraf PML-Q, told Mirza, "This is a big test and I hope that with the honour that Allah has bestowed upon you, you will be able to live up to expectations."

Later, in elections for the deputy speaker, PPP candidate Faisal Kundi defeated Khush Bakhat Shujaat of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is allied with the PML-Q.

The coalition government headed by the PPP has yet to name a Prime Minister, but they are expected to announce their nomination in the next few days. Party insiders say the prime minister, who will be named by Benazir Bhutto's son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, will only hold office for a few months until Bilawal's father, Asif Ali Zardari, becomes eligible for the post.


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