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Key Figures in Pakistan's Elections

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B | February 19, 2008 02:06 PM EST | AP


— Key figures in Pakistan's parliamentary elections who could emerge as candidates for prime minister.

ASIF ALI ZARDARI: The widowed husband of Benazir Bhutto, who is now the head of her party. He did not contest Monday's vote but can become a parliament member through a by-election. A divisive figure, Zardari was nicknamed "Mr. 10 percent" for allegedly receiving kickbacks on government contracts while his wife was prime minister. He spent eight years in jail for alleged corruption, a charge he and his wife contended was politically motivated. In her will, Bhutto called Zardari, 51, a "man of courage and honor" who can keep the party united until their 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari finishes his studies at Oxford University.

NAWAZ SHARIF: Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, was ousted by then-Gen. Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999. Musharraf sent Sharif, a two-time prime minister and industrialist, into exile in 2000. He returned in November to challenge Musharraf. Sharif, 59, was barred from contesting the vote because of his conviction in criminal cases filed against him after his ouster. He can become the prime minister only if Musharraf or the new parliament lift a constitutional bar preventing anyone from seeking a third term as premier.

MAKHDOOM AMIN FAHIM: The veteran politician is vice chairman of Bhutto's party and a key contender for prime minister if it wins. Fahim's father helped Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, establish the Pakistan People's Party. Fahim comes from a landowning family in Sindh province, which owes much of its prestige to a claim of descent from a renowned religious leader of Islam's Sufi sect.

AITZAZ AHSAN: Among the leading members of Bhutto's party, a longtime lawmaker and a prominent attorney, Ahsan has been detained at his home in Lahore since November for his strong opposition to Musharraf. Ahsan, 63, boycotted the vote to protest Musharraf's sacking of the Supreme Court's chief justice. He can become a parliament member through a by-election.

JAVED HASHMI: He is among the best-known members of Sharif's party and an outspoken critic of Musharraf. In 2004, Hashmi, 60, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for inciting the army to mutiny after he circulated a letter purportedly from army officers critical of Musharraf's support of the U.S.-led war on terror. But the Supreme Court ordered him released in August. He is running for a seat in Rawalpindi, where the army has its headquarters.