Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf is unlikely to be arrested soon on graft charges despite a supreme court order for the same as sources and government on Wednesday maintained that the court had not set any deadline.
The government will act according to the law on the Pakistan supreme court's order for action against Ashraf over alleged graft in power projects though several procedures will have to be completed before any arrest warrant can be issued, a federal minister said.
"The government of Pakistan is acting according to the law and what the supreme court has said will be acted upon. The judgment of the supreme court will be honoured," information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told a news conference outside Parliament this evening.
However, Kaira made it clear that several procedures would have to be completed by the national accountability bureau (NAB), the country's main anti-corruption agency, before an accountability or anti-corruption court can issue an arrest warrant.
Sources in the government told that the NAB was unlikely to take any immediate action to arrest 62-year-old Ashraf. Though media reports had on Tuesday quoted the supreme court bench as saying that Ashraf and the other suspects should be arrested in 24 hours, the written order issued by the bench set no deadline for the arrests.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry yesterday directed the national accountability bureau, the country's main anti-corruption agency, to initiate action against Ashraf and over 20 other persons for alleged corruption in the setting up of "rental power projects".
In its order, the bench directed officials to submit investigation reports and get approval for "challans" (chargesheets) and cases against the accused and "to cause their arrest without any hesitation".
The bench further directed authorities to submit a report to the court on January 17.
Cleric Qadri issues ultimatum to govt
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters led by Canada-returned cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, rallied in Islamabad for the third day in a row on Wednesday, giving the government time till Wednesday night to quit and dissolve the national and provincial assemblies to pave the way for electoral reforms.
Qadri, who marched into Islamabad with his supporters on Monday and began a protest near parliament, outlined four demands during his speech on Wednesday afternoon, including electoral reforms according to the constitution before polls and reconstitution of the election commission.
He said there should be no secret compromise between the ruling Pakistan People's Party and main opposition PML(N) on forming a caretaker government to oversee the next general election and the immediate dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies.
"The government should decide by tonight (on these demands)," said Qadri, the head of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran who returned to Pakistan last month after living in Canada for the past seven years.
"This so-called democratic government will end today or tomorrow, God willing ... Now we can't accept corruption anymore in this country. We want true democracy," he said.
In a rambling three-hour speech loaded with religious imagery, Qadri repeatedly attacked politicians of both the ruling and opposition parties.
At one stage, he urged his supporters to be ready to disrobe corrupt leaders and expose their "tattoos".
He incited officials to defy the government, saying it would be removed in a day or two.
Qadri's protest received a shot in arm on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court issued an order to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf over graft charges linked to power projects just as the cleric was making a fiery speech against "corrupt and incompetent" politicians.
During his speech today, Qadri said the government and the premier had lost their moral authority after the Supreme Court's order to arrest Ashraf and could not be allowed to continue.
Despite Qadri's claims that he is being supported by "millions", the crowd at Jinnah Avenue in the heart of Islamabad has been gradually thinning since Tuesday.
Though this is the largest demonstration in Islamabad in several years, TV anchors dismissed the cleric's claim and quoted authorities as saying that 25,000 to 50,000 people were at the protest.
As Qadri also urged Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan to join his protest, footage on television showed large gaps in the crowd listening to the cleric.
He also said his followers should be prepared for a crackdown by authorities.
"Our chests are ready for your bullets ... The first shot should be fired at me and not my followers," Qadri said, sitting inside his special bulletproof container.
Qadri's supporters have set up tents on Jinnah Avenue, Islamabad's main boulevard that runs from the presidency to the commercial district of Blue Area, and brought in stocks of food and firewood.
The entire area was covered with litter. The sudden re-emergence of the cleric months ahead of Pakistan's general election has triggered fears in political circles that he is acting as a front for the military to delay the polls and prolong the duration of a caretaker administration.
However, Qadri said he had no interest in heading an interim administration as he was the "caretaker of the nation and of 180 million people".
The timing of the apex court's order to arrest the premier fuelled speculation about a judicial-military intervention.