Pakistan’s PM Nominee Faces Arrest

Posted June 21st, 2012 at 10:25 am (UTC-5)
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One of the people poised to become Pakistan's next prime minister now faces an arrest warrant in connection to a scandal dating from his time as the country's health minister.

Shortly after Makhdoom Shahabuddin filed his nomination papers Thursday to replace ousted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, an anti-narcotics judge ordered his arrest in connection with a scandal involving illegal imports of the drug ephedrine.

Asked about the arrest warrant, Shahabuddin quoted a line from a poem about not being afraid of “hostile winds.”

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.

Elections are scheduled for early 2013, but some analysts now believe the vote could take place before the end of the year.

Pakistan's new prime minister stands to inherit a tenuous position between President Asif Ali Zardari and the country's Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the court removed Mr. Gilani, declaring him ineligible for office after finding him guilty of contempt on April 26. The leader had refused the court's 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 was a blow to Mr. Zardari's government, already struggling with rolling blackouts, high unemployment, militant attacks and a tense relationship with the United States.