Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who was elected as the 17th prime minister of Pakistan on June 22, 2012 as a candidate of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its coalition partners, was born on December 26, 1950 in Sanghar (Sindh). He did his BA from the University of Sindh in 1970 and started his professional career as a businessman and agriculturist. He also obtained a diploma in the industrial management from England in 1974.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who is regarded as an important PPP loyalist and leader in the Rawalpindi district, also participated in 1985 non-party local government elections and later joined the PPP in 1988. He contested parliamentary elections in 1990, 1993 and 1997 but lost. He remained chairman of the Social Action Programme from 1994 to 1996 during the rule of late Benazir Bhutto.
As a candidate of the PPP from NA-51 (Rawalpindi-II) constituency, he defeated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate Chaudhry Zaman by 25,000 votes in the 2002 general elections and was elected to the National Assembly. In 2008 general elections, he defeated Qasim Javed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid in the same constituency.
Originally from Gujar Khan, an industrial town in the Rawalpindi district of the Potohar region in northern Punjab, he was appointed federal minister for water and power from March 31, 2008 to February 09, 2011 in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani after 2008 elections and then he was given the portfolio of Ministry of Information Technology when the cabinet was reshuffled.
On April 26, 2012, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was convicted by the Supreme Court on the contempt of court charge for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities regarding cases of alleged corruption by President Asif Ali Zardari. On June 19, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled Gilani retroactively ineligible to hold the office. The disqualification of Gilani paved the way for election of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as chief executive of the country. He secured 211 votes while his rival Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz got 89 votes out of total 300 votes cast in 342-member National Assembly.
During his time as a Member National Assembly (MNA), he served as a member of the Standing Committee on Kashmir and the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights. Before his ascendance to the post of prime minister, he was also the secretary general of the PPP.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who is married and has two sons and two daughters, comes from a middle class Potohari-speaking family of landowners having a traditional background in politics. An uncle of his served as a minister in the cabinet of Ayub Khan during the 1960s. His parents owned agricultural land in the town of Sanghar in Sindh, where he was born and brought up. Alongside Urdu, Punjabi and Potohari, he can fluently speak Sindhi.
After completing his education in Sindh, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf moved back to Gujar Khan where he set up a shoe factory with his brothers. The business did not flourish and he soon shifted over to real estate, in which he was successful. His private family residence is located in his hometown of Gujar Khan.
During his tenure as the minister for water and power, there was a chronic shortage of electricity throughout the country and power load-shedding remained frequent. In this position, he faced scathing criticism for repeatedly promising the country’s power crisis would be over ‘by December’. He was one of the most sought after ministers in the National Assembly by legislators who demanded answers for the power crisis.
According to a report on his parliamentary performance, the Water and Power Ministry while Ashraf was in-charge received as many as 1,147 official questions and queries, of which only 60 per cent were responded to. The report opined that his performance as minister was “tainted by failures to overcome the power shortfall that continued to aggravate even after he was replaced”.
Nevertheless, about 3,570 megawatts of power was added to the national grid during the PPP government, a major portion of which came during Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s term in office. His term is said to have overseen relatively more megawatts being added to the national grid when compared to other ministers of water and power since Benazir Bhutto’s last government. He oversaw expensive “rental power” projects that generated very little power, earning the nickname “Raja Rental” in the Pakistani media. He has been accused of receiving kickbacks in the rental power projects and of using illegal money to buy foreign property. He has denied the charges, and as of June 2012, he is defending himself before the Supreme Court. No official charges were framed against him. The court did, however, revoke his power as the minister for water and power in February 2011. Subsequently, he was appointed to the Ministry of Information Technology.