Islamabad, June 21 Tipped earlier as a covering candidate, Raja Pervez Ashraf of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was Thursday named the party's main candidate for the office of prime minister following the issue of a non-bailable arrest warrant against the previous contender Makhdoom Shahabuddin.
Another PPP leader, Qamar Zaman Kaira, has also filed nomination papers for the prime ministerial election slated for Friday.
Two opposition candidates, Maulana Fazlur Rehman from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Sardar Mehtab Abbasi from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), also filed nomination papers Thursday.
Shahabuddin's name was dropped after an anti-narcotics court Thursday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him as well as disqualified prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's son Ali Musa in an illegal drugs quota case, Geo News reported.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has directed the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) to arrest Shahabuddin.
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 case came to light after the two Multan-based companies failed to export asthma drugs to Afghanistan, after obtaining export quotas from the health ministry.
President Asif Ali Zardari had earlier formally named Shahabuddin as the PPP's candidate for the post of prime minister, state television PTV reported.
Shahabuddin was textiles minister in the government of Yousuf Raza Gilani. He earlier held the portfolios of federal minister for finance and health.
A special session of the National Assembly has been summoned Friday (June 22) to elect the new prime minister, after Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by the Supreme Court. Speaker Fehmida Mirza will chair the proceedings.
The PPP's central leader Khursheed Shah, however, said the ruling coalition would announce their final decision on the nominee for prime minister after a meeting Thursday night, Dawn News reported.
The former minister for religious affairs said his party has submitted nomination papers to the National Assembly Secretariat for three of its candidates.
On the arrest warrant issued against the earlier preferred candidate, Makhdoom Shahbuddin, Shah said it was an "effort to derail the system".
He said it was "unfortunate that some members of parliament are part of the conspiracy to destabilise the system".