Islamabad: An anti-narcotics court here Thursday issued non-bailable arrest warrant against Pakistan's prime ministerial hopeful Makhdoom Shahabuddin and disqualified premier 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, named the prime ministerial candidate by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for Friday's election. The court also directed Ali Musa Gilani to be arrested.
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.
Geo News said the ANF has collected credible evidence against both Shahabuddin and Gilani.
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 formally named Shahabuddin, textile minister in the outgoing Gilani cabinet, as the ruling PPP's candidate for the post of prime minister, state television PTV reported Thursday.
Shahabuddin is a member of the National Assembly since February 2008 from Punjab province's Rahim Yar Khan city, and was textiles minister in the government of Yousuf Raza Gilani.
He earlier held the portfolios of federal minister for finance and health. He also served as minister in the regime of then prime minister Benazir Bhutto.