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Pakistan's Supreme Court Orders Arrest Of Prime Minister


Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf
Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of the prime minister in connection with a corruption case linked to power projects.

The court gave authorities 24 hours to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and 15 other people and present them before the court on January 16.

Ashraf initiated the power projects when he was minister for water and electricity from 2008 to 2011. His name later surfaced as one of the key beneficiaries of the project.

Ashraf was first summoned in the case by the country's anticorruption body in April. He denied accepting bribes when he approved the plans in 2010.

Ashraf has been repeatedly criticized for his failure to resolve Pakistan's continuing severe power shortages.

The Supreme Court announcement came as populist Islamic cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri demanded the resignation of the government in protests attended by tens of thousands of followers in front of the parliament in Islamabad.

Qadri is widely believed to be backed by the Pakistan's powerful military.

Ashraf's top adviser, Fawad Chaudhry, condemned the court's order, saying there was "no doubt" the military and the Supreme Court were working together to topple the government.

Television images showed protesters celebrating as news broke of the court's order.

In Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital, the stock exchange fell sharply following the news of the court's move.

Ashraf became prime minister in June after the Supreme Court dimsissed his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, for contempt.

Gilani had refused to implement the court's orders to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a separate corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

In a separate development, the chief justice said general elections, which are due to be held by mid-May, must be held on time.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters, and the BBC
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