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Pakistan official refuses to arrest prime minister

Pakistan's top anti-corruption official on Thursday refused to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf [BBC profile] for corruption charges pursuant to a court order. Chief of the National Accountability Bureau, Fasih Bokhari, argued [WP report] that there was insufficient evidence against Ashraf to arrest him for allegations of accepting bribes for approving power generation projects during his tenure as Minister for Water and Power. He also noted that additional time was needed for further investigation. In response, the country's Supreme Court [official website] questioned Bokhari's motive behind the argument given that the case was initiated a year ago. The court demanded later Thursday that Bokhari produce the case files to determine whether the evidence is in fact insufficient, but Bokhari claimed that would be impossible due to the short notice. The arrest order was issued [JURIST report] by the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday.

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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