Zardari Changes Prime Minister Candidates After Warrant Issued; Viral Video Mocks Powerful in Pakistan

In a week that has seen rapid changes in Pakistan’s civilian government, it appears that President Asif Ali Zardari’s political party, the PPP, has had to change its choice to replace Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was ousted earlier in the week by the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, the PPP announced Makhdoom Shahabuddin as their choice for Prime Minister:

President Asif Ali Zardari nominated Shahabuddin to form a new cabinet after the Supreme Court dismissed Gilani for contempt on Tuesday.

A consensus choice and a loyalist, Shahabuddin was briefly finance minister during the 1993-1996 premiership of Benazir Bhutto, Zardari’s wife who was assassinated in 2007.

His nomination was announced after more than 24 hours of crisis talks and intense horse trading between Zardari and members of his fractious ruling coalition.

In brief remarks at the national assembly, Shahabuddin showcased his loyalty by thanking Zardari and extending greetings to members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on the birthday of his late wife.

“I am thankful from the bottom of my heart (to Zardari),” he told reporters.

“Today is a special day because it is Benazir Bhutto’s birthday and I send my congratulations on this birthday to all party workers,” he added.

That plan appears already to have come to a complete halt, as an arrest warrant was issued today for Shahbuddin:

A non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Makhdoom Shahabuddin in the ephedrine quota case, DawnNews reported.

President Zardari had nominated Shahabuddin as a candidate for the new prime minister. He had also filed his nomination papers for the slot on Thursday.

The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) issued warrants against Shahabuddin, Musa Gilani and one other person.

Earlier on June 7, Regional Director of the ANF Brig Fahim Ahmed Khan had told the Supreme Court that the ANF had widened its inquiry against Shahabuddin who he said had ordered the local conversion of ephedrine after Berlex Lab International and Danas Pharma (Pvt) Ltd failed to export asthma drugs to Afghanistan.

The ephedrine scam had come to light in April when the ANF informed a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, that the ephedrine quota worth Rs7 billion was given to two Multan-based companies on the pressure of an influential person.

Yes, the Gilani mentioned above is the son of the former Prime Minister. From Reuters:

In an unexpected twist to Pakistan’s latest political saga, an anti-narcotics court issued an arrest warrant for Shahabuddin in connection with a case of violated quota limits for the export of ephedrine while he was health minister.

That case allegedly involved Gilani’s son, Ali Musa Gilani, who is accused by anti-narcotics investigators of violating the quotas. Gilani and Shahabuddin have denied any wrongdoing.

Geo TV is reporting that the PPP is now moving to another candidate as their first choice for the Prime Minister election to be held in Parliament tomorrow afternoon:

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has decided that Raja Pervaiz Ashraf will be the party’s leading candidate for prime minister.

This decision was made after the PPP dropped the name of Makhdoom Shahabuddin as its leading candidate.

According to Geo News senior anchor Kamran Khan, the name of Makhdoom Shahabuddin was dropped due to his involvement in the Ephedrine scandal case. Earlier an anti-narcotics court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Ali Musa Gilani.

It is expected that Raja Pervaiz Ashraf will be introduced as the PPP’s candidate for prime minister to coalition partners later today (Thursday) and a power sharing formula will be discussed.

It seems significant to me that at a time when such huge changes in the political leadership of the country are being driven by scandal, a YouTube video that has gone viral in the country features a comedian poking fun at power. The Express Tribune interviewed Ali Gul Pir about his his video, “Waderai Ka Beta”:

When asked what inspired him to write this song, the young comedian candidly says, “I didn’t put any thought into it. I was not even expecting it to go viral. I just woke up one day and the deadly combination of power failure and boredom made me write it.”

The video shows Pir singing in front of a Hummer next to armed bodyguards. He raps about the luxurious brands he wears and the attention he gets because of his money and power, and also refers to how the social status of those around him changes because they are his pals. “The track is a dig at influential people who misuse their authority,” says Pir. “The subject could be anyone from the sons of bureaucrats to tribal leaders.”

Here is the video. If the english version of the lyrics does not appear, click on the “CC” button. I especially love the expressions on the faces of the “cute girls” in the nightclub scene:

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
15 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    As I was reading this post, the thought came to mind on how dysfunctional Pakistan’s governing bodies are.

    Following closely in trail was the thought the US’s governing bodies aren’t really that far behind.

    Third World R Us.

  2. MadDog says:

    @Jim White: What brought the similarity to mind was the Repug-dominated House Oversight Committee and Chair Darrell Issa’s contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder.

    If Issa could have issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Holder, I suspect he’d do it in a heartbeat.

  3. bsbafflesbrains says:

    Could there be an “Arab Spring” in Pakistan? Have not heard much about unrest among the youth of Pakistan similar to the Tunisian and Egyptian people.

  4. MadDog says:

    @bsbafflesbrains: I tend to think that Pakistan already had their “Arab Spring” when Musharraf was overthrown/deposed.

    The resulting “democracy” in Pakistan seems to be a matter of crawling before they stand, and then standing before they walk. There doesn’t appear to be a guarantee for successful arrival at any next stage.

  5. bsbafflesbrains says:

    @MadDog: Is it true that most of our “aid” goes to the military? It seems like this is another example of the MIC dictating real U.S. foreign policy while the State Dept. does the puppet show.

  6. orionATL says:

    kinda reminds me of sacha baron cohen.

    i was eating in an indian restaurant recently and got my first exposure to south asian rap.

    i couldn’t believe it,

    but then i thought, why not.

  7. MadDog says:

    OT – The latest on the Poles investigating the use of their country by the US to run a black site for torture via Henry Chu of the Los Angeles Times:

    Poland shaken by case alleging an illicit CIA prison there

    “A Polish inquiry on whether the CIA had a secret prison in the country where suspects were brutally interrogated could entangle former top Polish officials.

    For years, the idea seemed unthinkable, absurd. A secret U.S. detention center in a remote corner of Poland, where Al Qaeda suspects were brutally interrogated by the CIA? About as likely as “the Loch Ness monster,” is how one Pole described it recently.

    That monster is now rearing its head.

    Cloistered inside government offices, surrounded by classified documents, Polish prosecutors are building a case that could result in criminal charges against the nation’s former spy chief and even, some say, against former senior political leaders. Evidence that a foreign power was allowed to conduct illicit activities on Polish soil has deeply shaken many Poles’ faith in the United States and in Poland’s sense of itself as a successful democracy born from the ashes of the Cold War…”

  8. sona says:

    zardari’s second choice of ashraf is not likely to last – he is implicated in a scam involving private electricity generation companies

    either way, whoever gets the nod, will face the same issue with the judges

    meanwhile switzerland claims it handed over all the case files to the pakistani embassy in the uk and the latter aren’t saying anything at all

  9. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: Though I don’t recommend giving them any clicks to their wingnut site, I thought I do the rest of the inhabitants here at Rancho Emptywheel the favor and throw up (figuratively and perhaps, literally) a few tidbits from a NewsMax paean: “Former CIA Official Reveals the Truth About Waterboarding” to the former Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Services, Jose “Waterboarding is good for you!” Rodriguez.

    In the piece, the author Ronald Kessler states that Jose “Waterboarding is good for you!” Rodriguez said the following:

    “…Jose Rodriguez Jr., the former chief of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, told the real story recently to a luncheon gathering of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO)…

    …Propelled by fear that another attack was in the works, Rodriguez turned to a private company that trained members of the U.S. military by subjecting them to waterboarding in case they were captured…

    Rodriguez asked if the company would work with CIA and Justice Department lawyers to develop an enhanced interrogation program that would pass legal muster. The Justice Department and White House approved the enhanced interrogation techniques, and Rodriguez briefed key members of Congress on them. No one objected…


    …Because he wanted to prevent torture and make sure the U.S. obtained every last bit of intelligence, Rodriguez set up CIA facilities overseas for interrogation of high-value detainees


    …In part to document that detainees were not abused, Rodriguez ordered some of the interrogations videotaped

    (My Bold)

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Based on this “reporting”, it seems that Jose “Waterboarding is good for you!” Rodriguez is admitting that he personally was responsible for all of this. Nothing like a criminal admitting guilt, is it?

    2) Hmmm…aren’t all of these admissions by Jose “Waterboarding is good for you!” Rodriguez classified information? And therefore, shouldn’t there be a criminal investigation of Jose “Waterboarding is good for you!” Rodriguez for leaking classified information?

    Hey Senator John McInsane! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? You do want another special prosecutor to do a criminal investigation of Jose “Waterboarding is good for you!” Rodriguez leaks, don’t you?

  10. rg says:

    Jim, I’m curious why you repeatedly have used the term “civilian government”, as if it were some sort of anomaly. In a recent post you also used this term and quoted it’s use by a US government official to disparage a Pakistan government policy. I realize that as recently as the reign of Pervez Musharaf (sp?) the he was the head of a military government, but it now seems peevish to refer to its replacement by emphasizing the “civilian” character as if it were somehow not legitimate, or merely temporary.

  11. Jim White says:

    @rg: Nothing meant by it at all. In my simple little mind, I see three players in what is going on: the military, the judiciary and the civilian government. That’s just how I think of them. All have significant power and control significant functions.

  12. rg says:

    @Jim White:
    Thanks for the reply. In my simple mind the military and certainly the judiciary are parts of the entire civilian government. Perhaps what is being referred to here is what we call the executive part of the government. The “fault” doesn’t I think lie with you, but you seemed to pick up the term from that US official who seemed to have an unfriendly agenda. (I just checked your 6/19 post on these matters, but the quote wasn’t there). At any rate one would blanch to hear the American government referred to as the civilian government, as if we had several different kinds, one of which is currently operating. At least thats how my mind works. Cheers.

  13. Jim White says:

    @rg: @rg: I don’t think it is as unified as that. Consider what the New York Times says about the arrest warrant for Shahabuddin:

    Pakistan’s judiciary stepped up its assault on government authority on Thursday when a court, prompted by a military-run antidrug agency, issued an arrest warrant for a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, effectively blocking his nomination as the country’s next prime minister.

    The move was the first open entry of the military into the deepening struggle between the judiciary and Mr. Zardari’s government this week, beginning with the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday.

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