Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of the prime minister in connection with a corruption case linked to power projects, television channels reported, plunging the country into fresh political turmoil.
The surprise move came as a populist cleric, who is believed to be backed by the military, demanded the resignation of the government in protests attended by thousands of followers in the heart of the capital Islamabad.
The political fallout of the Supreme Court’s order against Ashraf is not yet clear 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, the country’s main anti-corruption agency, had so far refused to act on the court’s directive.
An SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had ordered the NAB to present a comprehensive report after determining who was responsible for the transfer of the officer.
The bench had remarked that the NAB, Pakistan’s premier anti-corruption body, was supposed to end corruption, not to promote it.
In March last year, the apex court had directed the NAB to prosecute ministers who had held the power and water portfolios from 2006, in the Pakistan People’s Party regime.
Ashraf had served as the minister for power and water from March 2008 till February 2011.
As a result, on April 20, the NAB had issued arrest warrants for 33 people, including Ashraf.