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Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Sept 18, 2012. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the authorities to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, television reports said.

The apex court ordered the prime minister's arrest during a hearing of the rental power projects case.

The bench ordered the arrest of 16 persons, including the premier, and directed the authorities to present Prime Minister Ashraf in court tomorrow.

“The chief justice ordered that all concerned, regardless of their rank, who have been booked in the case be arrested and if someone leaves the country, then chairman of National Accountability Bureau will be held responsible along with his investigating team,” lawyer Aamir Abbas told AFP.

“The sixteen include Raja Ashraf,” said Abbas, referring to the prime minister.

The prime minister's adviser, Fawad Chaudhry, condemned the court's order, calling it unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported.

The bench directed the authorities to arrest the 16 accused and present a report on the matter on Wednesday.

The hearing was later adjourned to Jan 17.

The prime minister has been accused of receiving kickbacks and commission in the RPPs case as minister for water and power.

In the case, nine RPPs firms were accused of receiving more than Rs22 billion as a mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects but most of them did not set up their plants and a few of them installed them but with inordinate delay.

In March 2012, the Supreme Court had held the RPP contracts non-transparent and ordered that these be rescinded.

The court had also ordered National Accountability Bureau chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari to proceed with corruption references against those who were at the helm of affairs when the contracts were signed between 2006 and 2008 to overcome the energy shortfall through RPPs as a stopgap arrangement.

The unlucky ones who were expected to face criminal charges at the time of the apex court's ruling included Liaquat Jatoi, Raja Pervez Ashraf as well as Naveed Qamar and Waqar Masood. During their tenures, down payment to different RPPs was increased from seven to 14 per cent.

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