Pak SC orders arrest of PM Raja Pervez Ashraf in corruption case

Ashraf

Pakistan today plunged into a fresh political crisis with the Supreme Court ordering the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for allegedly receiving bribes in power projects.

Already rocked by fiery cleric Tahirul Qadri's ongoing protest seeking dissolution of provincial and national assemblies, Pakistan appeared headed for uncertainty with the court setting a 24-hour deadline for authorities to implement its arrest orders that may cost a second Prime Minister to lose office in less than a year.

62-year-old Ashraf, who became Prime Minister after the exit of Yousuf Raza Gilani in June last year, has been accused of receiving kickbacks and commission in the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case as federal minister for water and power.

Gilani had to quit in the midst of a raging battle with the Supreme court over his refusal to write to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari there. After Ashraf assumed power, the government wrote to Swiss authorities.

It is not clear as to what will be the political fallout of the Supreme Court's order against Ashraf as this is probably the first case of an incumbent Prime Minister being ordered to be arrested in a corruption case. It remains to be seen whether the ruling PPP will elect a new leader to replace Ashraf.

In March last year, the Supreme Court had declared all contracts signed by the government for "rental power plants" as illegal and directed authorities to take legal action against those responsible for clearing the projects, including Ashraf.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country's main anti-corruption agency, had so far refused to act on the court's directive.

During today's hearing, the bench issued a notice for contempt of court to NAB chief Fasih Bukhari.

Angered by revelations that two officers investigating the corruption in power projects had been transferred, the three-judge apex court bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry directed NAB to arrest Ashraf and over 20 other suspects within 24 hours.

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