Pakistan in turmoil
Arrest PM over ‘corruption’: SC
* Court orders NAB to arrest all 16 people accused of corruption in rental power projects in 2010
* Will hold NAB chairman responsible if any accused flees country
By Hasnaat Malik
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Tuesday on corruption allegations, ratcheting up pressure on a besieged government.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest all the 16 people, including the incumbent prime minister, involved in the rental power plants (RPP) scandal and submit a report on Thursday (tomorrow). The court said that prima facie the NAB’s investigating officers in the case were not being allowed to ensure implementation of the judgement of the court in letter and spirit.
The court has also directed NAB Additional Prosecutor General Rana Zahid Mehmood “to get approved the challans/references against the accused persons and to cause their arrest without any hesitation and submit report on January 17.” Summoning NAB Chairman Fasih Bukhari on Thursday (tomorrow), it observed that he is already under contempt notice for non-compliance of the judgement in the RPPs case and a copy of the same had been delivered to him in March 2012, therefore, he should have been careful. However, under the circumstances, the court said it was issuing a notice to the NAB chairman to explain as to why he has falsely used the name of the Supreme Court to remove two investigating officers, namely Asghar Ali and Kamran Faisal.
The court also made it clear to the NAB chairman that if any of the accused in the case escapes the country, he will be personally responsible for it. The CJP said action would be taken against him. The Supreme Court order came as protesters led by Tahirul Qadri massed near parliament on the third day of a march, calling for the immediate dissolution of the government. A general election is due to be held by mid-May.
But Qadri wants a caretaker government set up immediately, in consultation with the military and the judiciary, to implement key reforms before the polls are held. His demands are seen by critics as a ploy by elements of the establishment to delay the elections and sow political chaos in the country. The Supreme Court order signed by the chief justice, who has been at loggerheads for years with Zardari’s government, will heighten an already febrile political atmosphere.