By Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Pakistan Supreme Court's order to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on charges of corruption has plunged the country into a deep political crisis at a time when the country is just few months away from parliamentary polls.
Asraf is alleged to have received bribe from private power companies during his tenure as minister of water and power and this allegedly caused millions of dollars in losses to the national exchequer.
The prime minister has denied the charges.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who headed a three-member bench of the apex court, asked the head of the country's anti-corruption panel to arrest Ashraf and 15 other people who allegedly received huge kickbacks, including a former finance minister and top officials.
The court, in its three-page order, asked the National Accountability Bureau to arrest Ashraf within 24 hours and to ensure that no one flees the country.
The apex order has caused uproar within the government's circles and the beleaguered prime minister and President Asif Ali Zardari convened urgent meetings to review the fast changing political situation following the court's ruling.
As the court issued orders for Ashraf's arrest, tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators gathered near the parliament building in Islamabad and demanded dismissal of the central and provincial governments.
The demonstrators have started a sit-in in the capital for two days after marching in Islamabad from the eastern city of Lahore.
Tahir-ul-Qadri, a religious scholar, who led the long-march, told his supporters that they will not leave Islamabad unless his demands are accepted. The marchers spent their second night on Tuesday.
The government has dismissed Qadri's demands as illegal and there are no indications for any dialogue to end the sit-in, which has badly disrupted life in the capital city as embassies, government offices,educational institutions, and main markets have remained closed for three days.
Two days before the court's orders for the arrest of the incumbent prime minister, the coalition government in south- western Baluchistan province was dismissed following a string of deadly blasts which killed nearly 115 people on Thursday.
A presidential proclamation that imposed the governor's rule inBaluchistan led to further political crisis. The provincial assembly in Baluchistan has condemned the dismissal of the provincial government.
As the Supreme Court's order and the anti-government sit-in in Islamabad have increased political uncertainty, opposition parties are mounting pressure on the government to immediately quit and appoint a caretaker setup to hold fresh elections.
Cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, presided over an emergency meeting of his 'Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf' or Justice Movement, and demanded the resignation of the President and the dismissal of the government.
At a press conference, Khan asked his supporters to make preparations for another long march, an announcement that further complicated the already complex situation in Pakistan.
The court's verdict, the anti-government sit-in near the Parliament in Islamabad, dismissal of the Baluchistan government and the prospect of another long march against have compounded the problem faced by the government which has not even solved the series of deadly terror attacks in various parts of the country.
The coming days are very important for the government as the deadline for the arrest of the prime minister will expire in several hours.
Some government ministers have said that the prime minister will continue to function despite the court's verdict, indicating that the government would fight back against the judiciary and thus plunge the country into another political quagmire.
Video >>> Pakistani Supreme Court orders arrest of PM
Photo >>> Pakistani apex court orders arrest of PM in corruption case
Pakistani apex court orders arrest of PM in corruption case
ISLAMABAD, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the arrest of the country's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf involved in a corruption case, local media reported.
Raja Pervez Ashraf was accused of violating rules in rental power projects when he was the Minister for Water and Power during this government. Full story