Pakistan’s top court orders premier’s arrest as cleric rallies thousands against government
Pakistan’s top court ordered the arrest of the country’s prime minister in a
corruption case Tuesday, officials said, as a firebrand cleric rallied thousands
of people against the government for a second
day in the capital.
The Supreme Court’s order, which is likely to inflame the already
antagonistic relationship between the government and the court, was related to a
case involving private power stations set up to provide electricity to
energy-starved Pakistan. The judges are investigating allegations that the
bidding process was marred by corruption.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the arrest of several people involved
in the case, including Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who previously served
as minister for water and power, said court officials, speaking on condition of
anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
An adviser to the prime minister, Fawad Chaudhry, said the country’s attorney
general, Irfan Qadir, called Ashraf to notify him that the chief justice had
suggested he be arrested during a hearing into the case. But Qadir expressed
doubt that it was an official order and suggested waiting for the written
ruling, which should come out later Tuesday.
The adviser said any attempt to arrest the prime minister would be
unconstitutional since he enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office.
The court developments could provide ammunition for Tahir-ul-Qadri, a fiery
Muslim cleric who is leading a massive protest rally in Islamabad to press for
the removal of the government, which he claims is made up of thieving
The rally called by Qadri, who has rocketed to national prominence after his
return from Canada late last year, has galvanized many Pakistanis who say the
current government has brought them only misery. But critics fear that Qadri and
his demands for election reforms may derail the country’s upcoming democratic
elections, possibly at the behest of the country’s powerful military.