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Pakistan Supreme Court orders arrest of prime minister

The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Tuesday ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf [BBC profile] and 15 others over allegations of accepting bribes and approving power generation projects during his tenure as Minister for Water and Power. The court order [BBC report] states that Ashraf and the others should be arrested and produced before the court within 24 hours. According to Pakistan's Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira [official profile], the law ministry and prime minister have not yet received a written order from the Supreme Court. Ashraf has denied the allegations.

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 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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