Pakistan's judiciary have ordered the arrest of the man who looked set to become the country's new prime minister. The development is another twist in the political saga that has unfolded in the country this week.
A court in Pakistan on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for Makhdoom Shahabuddin, according to local television stations. The reports said the longstanding politician, previously poised to become the country's new prime minister, was under investigation on charges connected to illegal trade in controlled substances.
The corruption case pertains to the alleged illegal export of ephedrine, a medical drug that can only be exported from Pakistan in limited quantities. In October, two pharmaceutical companies were accused of attaining quotas to export more ephedrine than is permitted by Pakistani law, something which health ministry officials are accused of being complicit in. Shahabuddin was health minister at the time.
An arrest warrant has also been issued against the former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's son, Ali Musa Gilani, in connection with the case.
Textile Minister Shahabuddin was nominated by President Asif Ali Zardari as the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate to replace the dismissed prime minister Gilani a few hours before the allegations emerged. The move has been interpreted as an attempt on Zardari's part to maintain stability in the country, which is due to have elections early next year.
A country without a prime minister
Uncertainty has loomed over Pakistani politics since Gilani was ousted from his prime ministerial post after being convicted for contempt of court on Tuesday. He had refused to re-open corruption cases against President Zardari, prompting the country's Supreme Court to pronounce him ineligible for office.
Four more candidates have now applied for nomination for the position as prime minister, including two from the PPP, the ex-information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and the former information technology minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. They will only qualify as candidates if Shahabuddin is rejected; it is not yet clear whether Shahabuddin will be elected in spite of the arrest warrant. Zardari has announced that elections are due to take place on Friday evening.
sej/msh (dpa, Reuters)