A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin [BBC profile], a former health minister from Punjab Province and the nominee for the country's new prime minister position. President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] nominated Shahabuddin earlier on Thursday to fill the position of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who was disqualified [JURIST report] on Tuesday by the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website]. Upon the nomination, Judge Shafqatullah Khan issued an arrest warrant against Shahabuddin on behalf of the country's Anti Narcotics Force [official website] alleging that he was involved in irregularities in the amount of the controlled drug Ephedrine circulating within the country during his tenure as health minister. Along with Shahabuddin, an arrest warrant was also issued against Ali Musa Gilani, the son of the former prime minister. Upon the arrest warrant, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website] nominated a new candidate, a former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira [official profile]. The parliament will meet on Friday to elect a new prime minister. It is unclear whether the arrest warrant would hinder Shahabuddin from becoming the country's prime minister. If elected in Friday's session, he would become immune from the arrest under the country's constitution.
On Tuesday, the prime minister's position became vacant after the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] announced that Gilani ceased to be the country's prime minister since the date of his conviction in April [JURIST reports]. Gilani had been convicted of contempt of court for disobeying a court order to open corruption cases against President Zardari after he was charged [JURIST report] in February.