Islamabad: In a major blow to Pakistan government and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the Rs 22 billion Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam.
A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest 16 accused including the PM within 24 hours and present them before the court tomorrow.
The SC had earlier ordered to the NAB to fix criminal liability in the case.
PM Ashraf, three ex-Cabinet ministers and four former secretaries of government departments are accused in the case.
The PM is facing accusations of having received bribes and commission in 2008 when he served as the federal minister for water and power. He has however denied accepting bribes when approving power generation projects in 2010.
PM Ashraf also came to be known as ‘Raja Rental’ after he was named as an accused in the case. He is also facing allegations of buying property in London from wealth amassed through involvement in various scams.
The development came on a day when influential cleric Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri put the Pakistani government on notice and demanded the President and Prime Minister resign immediately.
Following today`s Supreme Court order, sources said that Ashraf has summoned a meeting of close ministers for consultations.
Ashraf is waiting for the detailed Supreme Court order after which he would consult Zardari, they said.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira also said Ashraf and the Law Ministry had not received the written order of the Supreme Court. He was quoted as saying that people would not let democracy be derailed.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik separately told reporters that the Supreme Court order was unexpected.
In March last year, the apex court declared all contracts signed by the government for "rental power plants" as illegal and directed authorities to take legal action against those responsible for clearing the projects, including Ashraf.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country`s main anti-corruption agency, had so far refused to act on the court`s directive.
During today`s hearing, the bench issued a notice for contempt of court to NAB chief Fasih Bukhari.
Qadri made the demand while spearheading a million-man march at Islamabad’s Jinnah Avenue.
Qadri’s supporters could be seen in Pakistan television images as celebrating and triumphantly applauding as news came.
Many in Pakistan are linking the SC order to the protest by Qadri, who is widely believed to be backed by elements of the judiciary and military.
It may be noted that Ashraf took over as Prime Minister last June after his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani was convicted in a contempt of court case.
(With PTI Inputs)