Zardari Allies Face Arrest in Pakistan ; Drug Charges Issued against Ex-Minister and Son of Ousted Premier

By Walsh, Declan | International Herald Tribune, June 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Zardari Allies Face Arrest in Pakistan ; Drug Charges Issued against Ex-Minister and Son of Ousted Premier


Walsh, Declan, International Herald Tribune


Warrants related to drug charges have been issued for a former minister who was named Thursday to replace the deposed Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as well as for Mr. Gilani's son.

The high-stakes battle between the Pakistani judiciary and the government took a fresh twist Thursday when a court issued an arrest warrant for a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, effectively blocking his nomination as the country's next prime minister.

Mr. Zardari wanted Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a former health minister from Punjab Province, to replace Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was dismissed as prime minister by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

But hours after Mr. Shahabuddin's nomination, a magistrate's court, prompted by the military-run Anti-Narcotics Force, ordered his arrest on charges relating to the illegal production of a controlled drug two years ago.

The court also issued an arrest warrant for Ali Musa Gilani, a son of the departing prime minister, in the same case.

The governing Pakistan People's Party quickly nominated a new candidate, Qamar Zaman Kaira, a former information minister who now looks likely to become prime minister after a vote in Parliament on Friday.

The dramatic court maneuver highlights the growing difficulty of separating law from politics in the country's rapidly evolving machinations of power. Mr. Zardari's supporters, and some analysts, say the judiciary is using its powers to erode the authority of the government and ultimately push it from power.

"Absolutely no subtlety anymore in going after the govt. Amazing," Nadeem F. Paracha, a newspaper columnist, wrote on Twitter.

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, insists that it is standing its ground against an incompetent and corruption-riddled administration. But it has shrugged off corrosive graft accusations against the chief justice's son.

In the background, meanwhile, are the country's powerful generals, who also harbor a deep animosity toward Mr. Zardari. Until now largely quiet, they have entered the fray with the drug case.

The Anti-Narcotics Force, which has aggressively pursued the investigation that led to the warrant for Mr. …

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