Court orders arrest of Pakistan PM
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of PM Raja Pervez Ashraf and 15 others over corruption allegations, raising fears of a political crisis just months ahead of an election.
Ashraf denies accepting bribes when approving power generation projects as minister for water and power in 2010.
Analysts say that the move is unlikely to lead to his immediate removal.
It comes as a populist cleric led thousands of protesters in Islamabad, demanding the government resign.
Television images showed demonstrators, led by Tahirul Qadri, celebrating and triumphantly applauding as news broke of the court’s order.
To many observers the timing of the move bolsters allegations that the cleric is backed by elements of the judiciary and military.
In recent years Pakistan’s government, judiciary and powerful military have been at loggerheads.
Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was forced out as prime minister last June after the Supreme Court convicted him of contempt for failing to pursue a corruption case against the president.
Ashraf was appointed in his place, but analysts predicted that his tenure would also be troubled.
The Supreme Court order says the prime minister and the others should be arrested and produced before court within 24 hours. But analysts say the prime minister’s lawyers may find ways of delaying any appearance.
Ashraf is set to lead the ruling Pakistan People’s Party into general elections due in May. Analysts say they expect the balance of power in the forthcoming parliamentary polls to broadly stay the same unless turnout is high, which could allow minor parties to translate popular support into seats.
He has long been a senior figure in the PPP, and has twice been a minister in the government which has been in power since 2008.
But it was his tenure as minister for water and power which is dogged by controversy. (BBC)