NEW: Pakistan People's Party mulls withdrawing the nomination
PM hopeful Makhdoom Shahabuddin has been linked to a drug scandal
This comes after Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified from holding office
The nominee is considered a loyalist of the president
A day after Makhdoom Shahabuddin was tapped as the ruling party’s candidate for prime minister, a trial court in Pakistan issued a warrant for his arrest Thursday, a government official said.
Shahabuddin’s name had been linked to a drug scandal when Pakistan’s anti-narcotics force began investigating the illegal import in 2010 of the stimulant ephedrine. Shahabuddin, considered a loyalist of President Asif Ali Zardari, served as the health minister at the time.
It was not immediately clear how the arrest warrant would impact Shahabuddin’s candidacy and if he would be arrested. The government official who disclosed the development asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media on the record.
Zardari had summoned the lower house of parliament to meet Friday to elect a new prime minister after the nation’s top court ruled that Yousuf Raza Gilani is ineligible to hold the office.
The Supreme Court declared Gilani disqualified retroactive to April 26, the day he was convicted of contempt charges stemming from his refusal to call on Swiss authorities to reopen old corruption charges against Zardari.
The Pakistan People’s Party was meeting to decided what to do, a senior party official told CNN. The official told CNN party leaders are reconsidering Shahabuddin’s nomination but have yet to make a final decision.
If the party decides against Shahabuddin’s nomination, there are other prospects waiting in the wings.
The official said they would be either Qamar Zaman Kaira and Raja Pervez Ashraf, both outgoing ministers who served under former Gilani and are also seen as staunch Zardari loyalists.
Supporters of Gilani and the party say the court’s ruling was politically motivated because of bad blood between the Supreme Court’s popular Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Zardari.
Pakistan has been beset by militant activity and political tumult for years.
Fighters from the Taliban and al Qaeda use the northwestern territories as bases for attacks in Afghanistan, and U.S. drones regularly strike militant positions. The United States and the Afghan government have been concerned that the warfare and instability could hurt the government.
But the crisis and a possible departure of the prime minister wouldn’t have a seismic effect on the nation’s stability and political system because the country’s civilian government is dominated by the Pakistan Peoples Party.
The current government’s term ends in February. This would be the first time since Pakistan’s independence in 1947 that an administration would complete a five-year term.