“The news that the [country’s] Supreme Court had called for the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ran through Pakistan like an electric current Tuesday afternoon,” The Christian Science Monitor writes from Islamabad.
As The Associated Press says, this is “the latest clash between the government and a judiciary that has repeatedly pressured the country’s political leaders.” And, the wire service adds:
“The ruling is sure to inflame the already antagonistic relationship between the court and the government, pushing the country toward yet another political crisis. It also could provide ammunition to Tahir-ul-Qadri, a firebrand Muslim cleric who was leading tens of thousands of people in a second day of rallies in Islamabad to press for the removal of the government, which he criticized as corrupt and indifferent to the common man.”
The BBC writes that the court ordered the arrest of Ashraf and 15 others on corruption charges. Ashraf, the BBC adds, denies allegations that he accepted bribes “when approving power generation projects as minister for water and power in 2010.” Appeals may delay any move to arrest him.
Ashraf has only been prime minister since mid-2012. He replaced Yousuf Reza Gilani, who was ousted from office by the court because he refused to pursue a corruption investigation into President Asif Ali Zardari.
All this happens as Pakistan prepared for elections in May. The Washington Post writes that “some observers said the [arrest] order, if implemented, could derail elections. … They speculated that Pakistan’s powerful military leadership could establish a caretaker government and then call for a delay in choosing which political party would lead Pakistan for the next five years.”