01/15/2013, 00.00
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Pakistan's Supreme Court orders PM's arrest

Raja Pervez Ashraf is accused of corruption dating back to 2010. Mass demonstrations have been held across the country. Fears are growing of a possible military coup.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and 15 other people in connection with corruption cases dating back to 2010, a move deemed unconstitutional by Mr Ashraf's advisor Fawad Chaudhry. The turn of events comes at a time when anti-corruption protests led by Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahirul Qadri call for a caretaker civilian-military government until the next elections.

According to his accusers, Ashraf took kickbacks when he was Water and Energy minister in 2010, accusations that have shaken public opinion. Still, no one expected he might be removed from office . . . until now.

In fact, many observers believe the Supreme Court is using Qadri's protest movement to postpone the May elections in order to help the military come back to power.

A high-ranking figure in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Ashraf served as a minister since the PPP came to power in 2008.

He took over as prime minister in June 2012 when his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, quit after being convicted of contempt of court for refusing to carry out a court's order and reopen corruption cases involving current President Asif Ali Zardari, who had been under investigation for corruption for a number of years.

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