Islamabad – Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, a longtime ally of President Asif Ali Zardari who faces corruption allegations, was chosen by parliament Friday as Pakistan’s prime minister, taking over a government locked in a bitter war with a hostile judiciary and struggling with a tide of daunting economic and security challenges.
Ashraf replaces former Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani, who was forced to leave office this week by the Supreme Court as a result of his conviction in April on contempt charges. He wasn’t Zardari’s first choice to replace Gilani; an arrest warrant issued this week by an anti-narcotics court sidelined a previous nominee.
Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, together with its coalition of allied parties, easily had the votes in parliament needed to ensure Ashraf’s appointment.
Norwegian killer awaiting sentence
Oslo, Norway – Final arguments ended Friday in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed Norwegian killer of 77 people, and the question of his sanity was in the hands of a five-judge panel expected to rule in the coming weeks.
In his closing argument, Breivik attorney Geir Lippestad asked the court for the “mildest possible sentence.” In his own often rambling final words to the court, Breivik said he acted to defend the “indigenous Norwegian people” and demanded to be set free.
Breivik has admitted that he carried out last July’s bombing of a government building in Oslo that killed eight people and later the same day shot 69 people to death at an annual gathering of the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth group on the island of Utoya.
He faces a maximum allowable sentence of 21 years in prison, which could be extended indefinitely if he is considered a danger to society, or commitment to psychiatric care until deemed safe for release.