Ashraf is one of the 33 accused in the Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam. Today, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest the Prime Minister and other persons who were involved in the Rs 22 billion scam.
The onus is on the NAB to ensure that none of the accused escape, the bench stressed. In Mar 2012, the court had asked the anti-corruption agency to fix criminal liability in the case.
However, the NAB ignored the order. Noting that the bureau's chief Fasih Bukhar could therefore be held guilty for contempt of court, the court today issued a notice to him.
Besides the PM, three former federal ministers face accusations of clearing as many as 19 rental power projects after taking commission for the same.
The Supreme Court has declared all these projects as illegal. Back in 2006 when the down payment for the rental power projects was just 7 per cent, Liaquat Jatoi served as the federal minister for water and power.
Two years later, the down payment was hiked to 14 per cent during Ashraf's tenure. At this juncture, Shaukat Tareen was the country's Finance Minister. The then finance secretary also figures in the list of accused.
Pakistani media started calling the PM "Raja Rental" once his involvement in the scam became public knowledge. Reports say the 62-year-old owns property even in the United Kingdom.
In Apr 2012, the NAB put out a warrant for his arrest but his subsequent elevation to the prime minister's post in Jun meant that no action was taken against him.
Reacting to today's Supreme Court directive, Ashraf's advisor Fawad Chaudhry said that it is "unconstitutional".
Incidentally, Deputy Prime Minister Pervez Elaihi is right now in Saudi Arabia. He has been asked to return immediately. Whether he will be selected by President Asif Ali Zardari to replace Ashraf is not clear at the moment.