Islamabad: Pakistan's main anti-corruption agency will decide whether a case should be filed against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf or if he should be arrested over allegations of graft in power projects, Law Minister Farooq Naek said on Tuesday. Speaking hours after the Supreme Court directed the National Accountability Bureau to arrest Ashraf and 15 other suspects linked to alleged corruption in setting up rental power projects, Naek said only the chief of NAB could decide on launching a probe or making arrests.
"The NAB Chairman has the power to order a probe. When the investigation is completed, the power of arrest lies solely with the NAB Chairman," Naek argued during an appearance of a TV talk show this evening. NAB's investigating officers can only recommend the filing of a case and all final decisions are made by the Chairman, he said.
"The NAB chief could decide to file a case and order an arrest or he could direct officials to conduct further inquiries," Naek said. Naek contended that the apex court's order did not say the premier was an accused. "The Supreme Court is the arbiter and judge, it does not investigate," he said.
The apex court issued the order against Ashraf in connection with graft charges that dated back to his tenure as Power Minister. The judges acted even as cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri was protesting with tens of thousands of supporters near parliament to pressure the government to quit and dissolve the national and provincial assemblies.
Naek said the cleric's rally was aimed against democracy and the government. Despite the latest developments, the government is committed to hold polls on time according to the law and Constitution, he said. "Qadri's demands are against the law and Constitution," he asserted.
"There is no role for anyone other than the treasury and opposition in parliament for forming a caretaker government. There is no role for the) judiciary, army or outside forces as that would amount to subversion of the Constitution," he said.
In a related development, NAB Chairman Fasih Bukhari told reporters in Karachi that he would act "within the law and Constitution" after receiving a written\ copy of the apex court's order. A report by BBC sparked speculation that Bukhari, a former naval chief, had resigned.
A NAB spokesman later clarified that BBC had reported that Bukhari had resigned by "some error". The spokesman said: "The NAB Chairman will not resign." BBC said it had been hoaxed by a caller impersonating as Bukhari.