Ruling Party Nominee Files Bid to Become Pakistani Prime Minister

Posted June 21st, 2012 at 6:10 am (UTC-5)
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The candidate chosen by Pakistan's ruling party to become the country's next prime minister has filed his nomination papers to replace Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was ousted by the Supreme Court earlier this week.

Textile industry minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin submitted the papers Thursday, a day before lawmakers are due to hold a formal vote. But just as filed his papers, Pakistani media reported that an anti-narcotics judge issued an arrest warrant for Shahabuddin – a former health minister – in connection with a scandal involving violated quotas for importing the drug ephedrine.

It is unclear if this will affect his nomination. Shahabuddin is likely to be elected because his Pakistan People's Party and its coalition partners have a majority in parliament. Another federal minister and ruling party member, Raja Pervez Ashraf, will serve as an alternate candidate.

On Tuesday, Pakistan's Supreme Court declared Mr. Gilani ineligible for the office of prime minister 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 Asif Ali Zardari .

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

In his ruling, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said that because Mr. Gilani had not appealed the conviction, he is disqualified as a member of parliament and no longer prime minister. Mr. Gilani's lawyer says his client will not fight the dismissal.

Pakistan's leading opposition PTI party described the court's decision as “a victory for justice” and called for new elections.

The political vacuum comes as the Pakistani government is being battered by accusations of corruption, violent protests against crippling power blackouts, militant attacks, and deteriorating relations with the United States.