Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari nominates new prime minister

Zardari nominates ruling party veteran Makhdoom Shahabuddin after supreme court declared Yousuf Raza Gilani ineligible

[IMG]http:/[/IMG] Makhdoom Shahabuddin's nomination signals a step back from a potential standoff between the government and the judiciary. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has nominated the ruling party veteran and textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin to be the country's new prime minister.
The supreme court declared on Tuesday that Yousuf Raza Gilani was ineligible for office for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president.
At the time a senior Gilani aide said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister, raising the possibility of a confrontation between the government and the judiciary, but by nominating a new man the president has accepted the ruling and backed away from a fight.
Shahabuddin is expected to file his nomination papers on Thursday. The ruling coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament, which meets on Friday in an extraordinary session.
Shahabuddin will face mounting public frustration over a range of problems and a supreme court chief justice who prides himself on standing up to Pakistan's most powerful players.
Gilani's removal is likely to inflame Pakistani politics, in which the civilian leadership, the military and the supreme court square off against each other at the expense of a public longing for stability and a stronger economy.
Shahabuddin, who enjoys smooth ties with coalition partners, was seen as a safe bet for the ruling Pakistan People's party, which is gearing up for a general election due early next year.
He is, however, likely face the same pressure as Gilani did from the supreme court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to reopen old corruption cases against Zardari.
Thousands of cases were thrown out in 2007 by an amnesty law passed under the former military president Pervez Musharraf, paving the way for a return to civilian rule.
Two years later the supreme court ruled the amnesty illegal and ordered the reopening of cases against Zardari involving money laundering through Swiss bank accounts.
Gilani and his government refused to obey the court's order to write to the Swiss authorities and ask them to look again at the cases, arguing that Zardari had immunity as the head of state.
Washington is hoping for stability in Pakistan and with it an improvement in a relationship severely strained by a series of events, most recently a Nato cross-border raid in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan closed supply routes to Nato forces in Afghanistan to protest against the attack and negotiations on reopening them are deadlocked.