Court issues arrest warrant for Pakistani PM nominee

Saturday, 23 June 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: A court has issued an arrest warrant for the ruling party veteran poised to replace Pakistan’s ousted prime minister, local television stations reported on Thursday, deepening political uncertainty in the strategic U.S. ally.

Pakistan’s president had nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate in an apparent bid for continuity ahead of elections due early next year.

Shahabuddin, the textiles minister, filed his nomination papers on Thursday. The ruling coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament, which meets on Friday in an extraordinary session to elect a new prime minister.

In an unexpected twist to Pakistan’s latest political saga, an anti-narcotics court issued an arrest warrant for Shahabuddin in connection with a case of violated quota limits for the export of ephedrine while he was health minister.

That case allegedly involved Gilani’s son, Ali Musa Gilani, who is accused by anti-narcotics investigators of violating the quotas. Gilani and Shahabuddin have denied any wrongdoing.

Shahabuddin’s nomination papers were approved by parliamentary authorities, but his bid for premiership could be undermined by the court orders.

He avoided questions from reporters about the court orders after filing his nomination papers, responding with only a line of poetry about adversity.

The PPP nominated two other candidates, former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and former water and power minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, as candidates for prime minister as well.

Leaders of the ruling coalition parties are meeting in Islamabad to further deliberate on their pick for prime minister after the warrant for Shahabuddin, adding to the drama in the build-up to Friday’s vote in parliament.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declared Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ineligible for office for refusing to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, triggering a new crisis in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

At the time, a senior aide to Gilani said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister, raising the possibility of a confrontation between the judiciary and government, but by nominating a new man the president has accepted the ruling and backed away from a fight.