Pakistan's court order to arrest the prime minister unsettles nation (+video)
The Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Ashraf, sparking rumors of a conspiracy against the country's democracy. But analysts are calling for calm.
The order for Mr. Ashraf's arrest – alongside the arrests of 15 other people – comes after a longstanding court case in which he has been accused of receiving kickbacks in a rental power project and buying foreign property with illegal money during his tenure as minister for water and power. The news also comes just months before the country is set to hold elections, and a day after Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Canadian-Pakistani cleric, led tens of thousands of organized protesters to the capital to demand “electoral reform” and an end to corruption, violence, and power outages.
Mr. Qadri's demand that the Pakistani Army be involved in elections, and the declaration of the arrest order in the middle of a speech in front of the Pakistani Parliament, has sparked rumors of a conspiracy against the country's fledgling democracy. For the first time in Pakistani history, a democratic government looked set to complete its full tenure. No other democratic government in Pakistan has sat its full time in office, dismissed either by the courts or by an Army coup.
It remains unclear what effect the decision to remove the prime minister will have on Pakistan's democracy, and its overall economic and social stability. Immediate public reactions seemed volatile.
Within minutes of the news breaking, the Karachi Stock Exchange shed some 500 points. The country's influential Geo News TV channel has started running democracy commercials, visibly concerned that the decision might undermine the country's current political system. However, legal and political commentators are calling for calm, and say that the decision does not necessarily mean that the democratic process has been undermined.