Lahore: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has surprised political circles by offering Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood, a PML-F leader and cousin of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, the governorship of Punjab province months ahead of Pakistan`s next General Election.
Mahmood, who accepted the offer, will replace Zardari`s confidant Sardar Latif Khosa as the Governor of the country’s most populous and politically crucial province.
The appointment of a person who is not from the inner circles of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party means the Governor House will be out of bounds for PPP workers and their political activities, analysts said.
The change is expected shortly as Mahmood, a feudal of Rahim Yar Khan district, is expected to take oath of office in a few days.
The decision to change the Governor was made at a meeting between Zardari and Mahmood in Karachi yesterday.
The meeting was also attended by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Gilani.
It is not yet clear whether the move has been endorsed by the Pir Pagara, Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi, who heads the PML-F party.
However, Mahmood said he had taken his party chief into confidence.
"I have accepted the offer of President Zardari to become Punjab Governor, which I accepted after consulting Pir Pagara sahab," he said.
Khosa had assumed the office in January 2011 after the assassination of the then Governor and senior PPP leader Salmaan Taseer, who was gunned down by one of his police bodyguards for opposing the harsh blasphemy law.
Sources said Zardari believed that Mahmood would be instrumental in installing a consensus caretaker setup in Punjab as he is considered close to the top leadership of the PML-N, which rules the province of 90 million people.
The PML-N led by former premier Nawaz Sharif may suffer a setback in Sindh as it had been banking on its ties with the PML-F since it has no vote bank in the southern province.
With the help of the PML-F, the PMLN would have been in a position to win some seats in Sindh.
However, the PML-N and PML-F developed differences when the PML-N started wooing some strong politicians in Sindh and southern Punjab without taking the PML-F into confidence.
At the same time, the PPP became active to win back the support of the PML-F by taking advantage of its differences with the PML-N.