The judiciary and the executive in Pakistan were back on collision course with the Supreme Court on Thursday ordering the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference within a week against the Prime Minister, Interior Minister and Pakistan Peoples Party secretary general for the questionable appointment of Tauqir Sadiq as chairman of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and then allegedly facilitating his exit from the country to avoid arrest.

Angry with NAB for its failure to keep Mr. Sadiq in custody – despite arresting him in the UAE – the two-judge bench hearing the case asked the Bureau to file a fresh case against premier Raja Parvez Ashraf, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and PPP secretary general Jahangir Badar. The Court had earlier declared illegal the appointment of Mr. Sadiq – against whom there are corruption allegations -- as OGRA chairman.

The directive to file a fresh reference against the premier came on a day when the Court began a probe into the death of a NAB Assistant Director Kamran Faisal last week. Faisal was one of the investigators looking into the Rental Power Plants (RPP) case in which the Court had ordered the arrest of the premier last week. While NAB refused to make the arrest on the premise that proper investigations had not been carried out, Faisal was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his room in Islamabad three days later.

Though initially it was reported to be a suicide case, subsequent disclosures revealed that Faisal had been under immense pressure because of the RPP case. Analysts claimed he was in the proverbial “between a rock and a hard place” situation as the NAB investigation was being influenced by the powers that be while the Supreme Court was breathing down on the Bureau for not doing its bidding.

With elections round the corner, there is a general view that another stand-off between the judiciary and the executive at this juncture is best avoided. This government has another month-and-a-half to go before the interim regime takes over and all eyes are now on the Supreme Court to see if it would send another premier packing.

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