Pakistan’s Supreme Court Tuesday ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on charges related to corruption, potentially forcing the country further down the path of political instability.
The Supreme Court said the charges stem from a hearing on a rental power plant case that Ashraf and 15 other individuals attended and they should be arrested, reported Pakistan’s Geo News. The case relates to the purchase of contracts of rental plants by the government while Ashraf was the water and power minister.
“The chief justice ordered that all concerned, regardless of their rank, who have been booked in the case be arrested, and if someone leaves the country, then chairman of NAB [National Accountability Bureau, an anti-corruption watchdog] will be held responsible along with his investigating team,” Bureau lawyer Aamir Abbas told Al-Jazeera.
Specifically, Ashraf is accused of receiving illegal kickbacks and commission in relation to the rental power plants project while he was the water and power minister.
Sources told Geo that the prime minister was summoned to a meeting that included his close ministers, to figure out what to do next. He is currently waiting for the full Supreme Court report and will then ask President Asif Ali Zardari what his next moves are.
The court decision comes as tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in Islamabad, the capital, calling for an end to the current government. The demonstrators, led by Muslim leader Tahir-ul-Qadri, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This president and prime minister … are now ex-presidents and prime ministers. Their time is over. Dissolve the national and provincial assemblies by the morning,” Qadri said Tuesday, according to the DAWN newspaper. The paper pointed out that many believe Qadri is backed by the powerful military establishment.
“These millions of supporters have spoken. They have rejected your so-called mandate. You are no longer their representatives,” Qadri continued.
Fawad Chaudhry, an aide to Ashraf, believes there was “no doubt” the arrest warrant handed down for his boss was conjured up by the military to topple the government, according to Reuters.
“The military can intervene at this moment as the Supreme Court has opened a way for it,” he said.
However, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, has a ruling majority in Parliament and can easily elect another prime minister to replace Ashraf, who himself replaced former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in 2012.
The military and the PPP have clashed politically for years, with each side feeling a deep mistrust toward the other. The military believes the PPP to be ineffective in tackling the country’s problems, including maintaining basic security, according to Reuters.
Police have conducted raids on four former government secretaries in relation to the rental power projects case, Geo News reported.
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