Shahabuddin dropped, Raja Pervez Ashraf is PPP’s new PM hopeful (Lead)

June 21st, 2012 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, June 21 (IANS) The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Thursday dropped Makhdoom Shahabuddin as its candidate for the office of prime minister after an anti-narcotics court issued non-bailable arrest warrant against him. The PPP’s covering candidate Raja Pervez Ashraf will now be its leading contender for the post.

Geo News said Ashraf will be introduced as the PPP’s candidate to coalition partners later Thursday, and a power sharing formula will be discussed.

Ashraf was earlier chosen as the covering candidate for Makhdoom Shahabuddin.

Another PPP leader, Qamar Zaman Kaira, has also filed nomination papers for the prime ministerial election slated for Friday.

Two opposition candidates, one each from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), also filed nomination papers Thursday.

The JUI-F named its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman while the PML-N nominated Sardar Mehtab Abbasi as their respective prime ministerial candidates.

An anti-narcotics court Thursday issued non-bailable arrest warrant against Shahabuddin as well as disqualified prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Musa in an illegal drugs quota case.

The warrant was issued after a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) to arrest Shahabuddin.

Shahabuddin, in his earlier capacity as health minister, had unauthorisedly approved the manufacturing licence for the drug ephedrine to two pharmaceuticals firms — Berlex Lab International and Danas Pharma — for Rs.7 billion.

The apex court said Ali Musa Gilani was the principal beneficiary in the case.

Dawn News said the case came to light after the two Multan-based companies failed to export asthma drugs to Afghanistan.

The case was registered in October last year after the two companies obtained export quotas for the drug from the health ministry.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) had fixed a quota of 22,000 kg of ephedrine for Pakistan for 2010-11, but the ministry then headed by Shahabuddin allocated around 31,000 kg to the companies.

“His (Shahabuddin’s) arrest is a matter of time. He can be taken into custody any time,” an ANF official was quoted as saying by News International.

“He was the man who being the health minister issued quota to Danas Pharma,” the official said.

The ANF had summoned Shahabuddin in May for interrogation and he admitted issuing the quota but pleaded innocence, saying he was unaware of the purpose.

As to why Shahabuddin had not been arrested even after it was established that he had approved the illegal ephedrine quota, Brig. Faheem Ahmed of the ANF told the apex court the bureaucracy was creating hindrances for the ANF to proceed against the suspects in the case.

He said the chief executives of two pharmaceutical companies involved in the case have been arrested.

Shahabuddin earlier told The News International that he had ordered an investigation into the ephedrine scandal without knowing about the alleged involvement of Ali Musa Gilani.

President Asif Ali Zardari had earlier formally named Shahabuddin as the PPP’s candidate for the post of prime minister, state television PTV reported Thursday.

Shahabuddin was textiles minister in the government of Yousuf Raza Gilani. He earlier held the portfolios of federal minister for finance and health.

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