The South Asia Channel

Pakistan’s Supreme Court orders arrest of prime minister

Pakistan’s Supreme Court orders arrest of prime minister

Chaos in the capital

Just as tens of thousands of Pakistanis joined Sufi cleric Tahir-ul Qadri’s march on the capital city of Islamabad to demand the resignation of the government for the second day on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on corruption charges (Reuters, NYT, AP, LAT, ). Prime Minister Ashraf is accused of receiving kickbacks from electricity projects when he was Minister for Power and Water (Dawn).

Qadri and his supporters camped around the parliament building demanding that the legislature be dissolved, where Qadri gave a speech in mixed Urdu and English criticizing purportedly rampant corruption in the country’s elected government, giving the government a deadline to step down, and calling on the military to step in to take control (Reuters, AP, The News, ET, Dawn, BBC). The federal government responded with a declaration that Qadri’s demands for the dissolution of the government are unconstitutional, and some political analysts worry that Tuesday’s events could derail the country’s first democratic transition of power, which is scheduled to happen through elections in April or May. Bonus read: Shamila Chaudhary, "Who is Tahir-ul Qadri?" (FP).

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday that there could not be "business as usual" with Pakistan following a recent series of clashes between the two nations’ troops stationed at the Line of Control dividing Kashmir (Reuters). And a firefight with militants who attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in Pakistan’s restive northwest killed four Frontier Corps members and two tribal policemen on Monday night (AFP).

It’s all in the details

U.S. and Afghan officials are divided on which particular U.S. forces will be withdrawn from Afghan villages this spring, with the Obama administration intending for only traditional combat troops to be withdrawn, and the Afghan government calling also for the removal of Special Forces operators who are training Afghan Local Police forces (Post).

And President Hamid Karzai announced Monday that the United States has agreed to provide Afghanistan with a fleet of surveillance drones, and to speed up the transfer of detainees to Afghan control (NYT). 

Just kidding

India began allowing elderly Pakistanis to receive visas upon arrival at border crossings on Tuesday, rather than having to apply ahead of time (AFP). But authorities then suspended the program just hours later, citing technical glitches.