Pakistan PM candidate faces arrest

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Pakistan PM candidate faces arrest

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) suffered yet another blow as a judge issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against its new candidate for the prime minister’s post, outgoing textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin.

By Afzal Khan

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Published: Fri 22 Jun 2012, 9:10 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:45 AM

As the party and President Asif Ali Zardari moved quickly to quell fears of a government showdown with the judiciary after the former premier was ousted by the Supreme Court for contempt of court, Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) magistrate Shafqatullah Khan issued the warrant against Shahabuddin over allegations he illegally imported drugs, injecting fresh uncertainty into Pakistan politics.

A warrant was also issued for the arrest of Ali Musa Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Member of the National Assembly. The court ordered the accused be arrested and presented before it within a week.

During a hearing at the magistrate’s court, ANF Commander Brigadier Faheem and Investigating Officer Abid Zulfiqar presented a report stating they had evidence and witness testimonies proving the direct involvement of Shahabuddin, a former health minister, and Ali Musa Gilani in providing illegal quota of banned chemicals to a laboratory in Multan.

Forwarding a request to be an immunity-granted witness, former director-general of health Dr Rasheed Jumma verified in his statement to the investigation team that it was Shahabuddin who approved the 2,500kg ephedrine quota allotment to Berlex Lab International and 6,500kg to Danas Pharma. He added that Ali Musa Gilani also pressed for the allotment of the quota. The magistrate approved the request of Brig Faheem and Investigating Officer Abid and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against the two accused.

Gilani’s son and Shahabuddin have denied any wrongdoing. Asked about the arrest warrant after filing his nomination at parliament Shahabuddin replied with a line from a poem about not being afraid of “hostile winds” and thanked the PPP and its coalition partners for choosing him.

Ashraf and outgoing information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira — also had filed papers in the event that Shahabuddin withdraws. Conflicting media reports said each candidate was gathering support within the party and its coalition partners.

The next prime minister will likely face the same order from the Supreme Court to investigate Zardari as Gilani did, meaning tensions will continue to roil the fragile political setup. The Gilani government was widely criticised for exacerbating — or doing nothing — to address the massive economic and security challenges in the country. No one expects any changes under a new premier.

Shahabuddin comes from a wealthy, landowning family based in the central Pakistani district of Rahim Yar Khan.

His father had served as minister in the cabinets of two Pakistani governments. He also served as minister for finance and health in the current government.

The PPP has a majority in parliament, and together with its coalition partners should have the numbers to get their choice elected. General elections are scheduled for March next year, but most assume the political upheaval will ensure they will be brought forward to the fall.-

With inputs from agencies

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