Friday, 22 June 2012 02:27
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People's Party will announce the name of its candidate for prime minister on Friday after a judge ordered the arrest of President Asif Ali Zardari's nominee Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a spokesman said.
Zardari is facing a political crisis after the Supreme Court dismissed premier Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt on Tuesday.
The president chaired a meeting of his allies late Thursday and the meeting "empowered the PPP to nominate a candidate for the prime minister's slot," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told state television.
Senior party leader Syed Khurshid Shah will reveal the consensus candidate at a news conference on Friday at 11:00 am (0600 GMT), it said.
Zardari had nominated loyalist Makhdoom Shahabuddin to form a new cabinet following intense horse trading with members of the fractious ruling coalition but an anti-narcotics court issued a warrant for his arrest just hours later.
Information technology minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira have also filed nomination papers ahead of Friday's parliamentary vote to elect the new prime minister.
Media reports said Ashraf had emerged as a strong candidate following the latest developments.
Shahabuddin's chances of becoming prime minister were weakened when an anti-narcotics court issued a warrant for his arrest over a drugs scam just hours after his nomination was announced.
Shahabuddin, a staunch Zardari loyalist with a powerbase in Punjab political heartland, had been textiles minister until Tuesday.
He was briefly finance minister during the 1993-1996 premiership of Benazir Bhutto. But it was his stint as health minister that led to his arrest warrant over the alleged import of an illegal drug in 2010.
Judge Shafqatullah Khan also issued a warrant for Ali Musa Gilani, son of the outgoing premier over the same scandal.
An anti-narcotics investigator told the court in Rawalpindi, that evidence given by Shahabuddin and Gilani junior had "not convinced" investigators of their innocence.
"We want them to be arrested so we can investigate them further," he said.
Political analyst Hasan Askari said suspicion would fall on the military for being behind the warrant, saying it was unusual for junior courts to intervene against senior politicians without being pushed.
"Makhdoom Shahabuddin's chances are declining because the action by the anti-narcotics force gives an impression that the army is not favourable to him. It appears that the army wants to wind up the present government but without actually coming into power," Askari told AFP.
Ashraf has also been dogged by allegations of corruption and controversy over his tenure as water and power minister, and is thought to have less political clout than Kaira.
Four other politicians, including two from the opposition, are also standing for election in what is considered a largely symbolic move as the PPP leads a majority in the assembly.
The new premier will face the same pressure to write to the Swiss, sparking speculation that elections due early next year could be brought forward.
There has been criticism of the judges' interference but other analysts pointed out the change of prime minister will have little tangible effect on policy or the longevity of the government.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012