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Pakistan high court orders second corruption case against PM

Pakistan's Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) [official website], Pakistan's principal agency to combat government corruption, to file a second set of criminal corruption charges against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf [BBC profile]. The charges [Pakistan Today report] are a response to accusations that Ashraf may have enabled Tauqir Sadiq, former chairman of Pakistan's Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) [official website], to embezzle over 83 billion rupees ($850 million) before he fled the nation. The criminal charges imposed by the court follow different corruption charges levied against Ashraf earlier this month by the court, which the NAB's chief executive refused to enforce [JURIST reports]. The court had also announced on Wednesday that it would launch its own independent investigation [order, PDF] of Ashraf following the death of a NAB official who was investigating Ashraf for corruption. The order [BBC report] follows the mysterious death of Kamran Faisal [Guardian report] who was discovered hanged in his room in Islamabad last week.

Ashraf's brief term as Prime Minister has been fraught with conflict and tension between the executive and the judiciary. Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was forced out as prime minister last June after the Supreme Court convicted him of contempt [JURIST report] for failing to pursue a corruption case against the president. In July, only a month after Ashraf became prime minister, the Supreme Court ordered him to reopen the investigation [JURIST report] against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] within three weeks. The National Assembly of Pakistan [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] to shield senior officials from contempt of court proceedings, which was widely seen as an attempt to exempt Ashraf from possible claims of contempt for failing to follow the order. When Ashraf did not do as the court requested, the Supreme Court granted him [JURIST report] another two weeks to comply with its order. When in early August Ashraf still did not reopen the investigation, the court ordered [JURIST report] him to appear and explain his refusal to comply with the July orders. After his appearance in court, the Supreme Court then granted Ashraf an additional three weeks [JURIST report] to reopen the corruption case. Finally, in mid-September, Ashraf agreed to allow the corruption case to be reopened [JURIST report].

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