Islamabad: A Pakistani judge ordered the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin as part of a drugs probe, hours after the ruling party nominated him as its prime ministerial candidate, fuelling reports he may be pulled from the race.
Raja Pervez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, both former ministers of ousted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet, are the party’s other candidates, Karamat Hussain Niazi, general secretary of the National Assembly told reporters in Islamabad. President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party will settle on one candidate tonight, GEO television reported, saying Shahabuddin would be withdrawn after the warrant was issued.
A judge of the anti-narcotics court ordered Shahabuddin’s arrest on Thursday in a case allegedly involving the illicit trade of ephedrine, Waseem Qureshi, a special public prosecutor said by phone from Rawalpindi. The anti-narcotics force is investigating whether Shahabuddin authorized an illegal permit to two pharmaceutical companies to import ephedrine during his term as health minister in 2011. The case, which also involves Ali Musa Gilani, the former premier’s son, is being supervised by senior judges headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Pakistan’s new leader, to be selected by a parliamentary vote today, will face the challenge of pursuing corruption charges against Asif Ali Zardari or risk meeting the same fate as Gilani, who this week became the nation’s first premier to be removed by a court ruling for failing to open graft cases against the president.
A Pakistani judge ordered the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin as part of a drugs probe. Photo: Reuters
A four-year clash between the government and judiciary has rocked an administration that’s aiming to be the first elected Pakistani regime to serve a full five-year term. The next general election is due by early next year.
A session of the parliament has been summoned on Friday at 5:30 pm local time to elect a prime minister. A party may field multiple candidates until just prior to the vote in case the nomination of one contender is rejected or withdraws for any reason.
The Karachi Stock Exchange 100 Index, which has climbed 20% this year, fell 0.5% to 13,600.60 at 3.30 pm, local time close. Pakistan’s rupee dropped 0.2% against the US dollar to 94.35 after weakening 5% this year.
Pakistan’s external payments position is under strain from a rising trade deficit and declining capital inflows, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report today.
Domestic political uncertainties add to vulnerabilities, according to the report.
The government is struggling to revive an economy hurt by the fastest inflation in Asia and a record energy crisis that has led to violent street protests across the Punjab province this week. It’s also seeking to mend ties with the US that are critical to stabilizing neighbouring Afghanistan.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the main opposition, nominated Mehtab Abbasi as its candidate for premier and Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman, a religious party leader, is also a contender, according to Niazi.
Zardari’s coalition has the parliamentary majority it would need to elect a prime minister.