Date: June 22 2012
PAKISTAN'S anti-drugs squad has ordered the arrest of the country's proposed new Prime Minister, on the day he has lodged his application for the government's top job.
In another twist in Pakistan's chaotic governance, President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin to replace outgoing PM Yusuf Raza Gilani who was dismissed by the Supreme Court for contempt.
But, just minutes before Mr Shahabuddin put forward his nomination to lead the government, and the day before parliament was expected to confirm his ascension, the anti-narcotics force has ordered he be arrested over his connection to the illegal importation of ephedrine, used in making methamphetamine.
The case, too, relates to Mr Gilani. His son Ali Musa is accused of importing massive amounts of ephedrine illegally in 2009.
Mr Shahabuddin, who was health minister at the time, is alleged to have approved the imports. He denies wrongdoing.
Asked about the arrest warrant after filing his nomination, Mr Shahabuddin quoted a poem, saying he was unworried about ''hostile winds'' blowing against him.
But the warrant issued for him is ''non-bailable'', meaning, once arrested, he will be jailed until the case is finalised.
Information Technology Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira have also filed nominations, presumably as cover should Mr Shahabuddin go to jail.
But the warrant put out for the putative PM will only strengthen arguments in Pakistan that the government is being attacked by other state agencies, including the court and the military. Legal cases are routinely filed against Pakistani politicians by rivals as a means of weakening them.
The cases often drag on in the courts for years and the accused politicians enjoy prominent careers regardless.
Pakistan had expected to have a new prime minister by the end of today, but fresh confusion reigns.
The sacked prime minister, Mr Gilani, was found in contempt for refusing a court order to write a letter to Swiss authorities, allowing them to investigate $60 million grafted into a Swiss bank account controlled by President Zardari.
Mr Gilani argued that Mr Zardari, as head of state, enjoyed immunity.
''Nothing has been solved. The Supreme Court ruling [to dismiss Mr Gilani] has not resolved anything,'' political analyst Harris Khalique told The Age.
''Whoever is elected as the new prime minister, the court will demand they write to the Swiss authorities, and the same problem will arise.''
With elections at most nine months away, critics of the PPP, widely regarded in Pakistan as corrupt and incompetent, see the instability as a perfect chance to begin campaigning.
Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and himself a former prime minister, held a rally in the Swat valley in the north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday telling supporters the government had bankrupted the country.
''Gilani had to go home in shame … today, Pakistan is standing alone in the international community due to wrong policies of the present government. PPP plundered public wealth and transferred it to Swiss banks. We will bring public money back to the country.''
With KHUDAYAR KHAN, AFP
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