Pakistanis continue anti-gov’t demo

Pakistani cleric Tahir Qadri (C) leaves Lahore to lead an anti-government march to the capital, Islamabad, January 13, 2013.

Pakistanis have held a demonstration for the third consecutive day in the capital, Islamabad, demanding the resignation of the government.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of the followers of anti-government cleric Tahir Qadri gathered near the parliament building in the largest political protest in the country over the past years.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Tuesday over allegations of involvement in a bribery case in 2010, when he was the minister for water and power.

Ashraf is accused of taking bribes in a scam related to power projects during his tenure.

The court also ordered the arrest of 16 other officials, including three former ministers, in connection with the allegations. The Supreme Court also gave a one-day deadline to authorities to arrest the premier and other suspects.

Addressing thousands of his supporters in Islamabad on Tuesday, Qadri delivered a fiery speech and called on the demonstrators to remain on the streets until Wednesday.

“I want to ask you to stay until tomorrow (Wednesday). I’m going to stay,” he said.

The Pakistani cleric and his supporters say they want the immediate dissolution of the parliament and the establishment of a caretaker government in order to implement major reforms in the country ahead of the elections that are expected to be held by mid-May.

Pakistani officials accuse Qadri of trying to delay the elections and sow political chaos. However, his supporters say he wants an end to corruption and problems facing Pakistan.

Qadri will address the demonstrators later on Wednesday.

MR/HSN/HJL