Pakistan’s PM Nominee Faces Arrest Warrant

Posted June 21st, 2012 at 7:15 pm (UTC-5)
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A Pakistani judge issued an arrest warrant Thursday for one of the candidates poised to replace the country's ousted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

An anti-narcotics judge in the northern city of Rawalpindi ordered Makhdoom Shahabuddin's arrest in connection with a scandal involving illegal imports of the drug ephedrine during his time as health minister.

The same judge also issued a warrant for Ali Musa Gilani, son of the outgoing prime minister, for his links to the case. Both men denied any wrongdoing.

It is unclear how the new developments will affect Shahabuddin's political future; he currently is Pakistan's textile minister. Lawmakers are due to meet Friday to discuss the election of a new prime minister.

Shahabuddin is the nominee of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, which holds a majority in parliament together with its coalition partners. Lawmakers also will likely consider at least four other nominees, including two from the opposition.

Pakistan's new prime minister stands to inherit a tenuous position between President Asif Ali Zardari and the country's Supreme Court, which declared Mr. Gilani ineligible for office Tuesday because of a prior conviction. The court found him guilty of contempt on April 26 after he refused its order to ask Swiss authorities to investigate claims of corruption against President Zardari.

The new prime minister will likely face the same pressure to investigate the president.

The Supreme Court's decision is the first time it has forced the removal of a standing prime minister. The move is a blow to Mr. Zardari's government, already struggling with rolling blackouts, high unemployment, militant attacks and a tense relationship with the United States.

Supporters of the court, including the political opposition, have welcomed the stand against what they believe is a corrupt and ineffective government.

But others feel the Supreme Court is overstepping its boundaries and doubt that the election of a new prime minister will end the standoff.