Government Vs. Supreme Court Tussle Continues In Pakistan
Islamabad: A day before the expiry of a deadline set by Pakistan’s Supreme Court for reviving graft charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, the government on Tuesday informed the court that the federal cabinet has made no decision to approach Swiss authorities to reopen the cases.
The government conveyed its position to the court through a reply submitted by attorney general Irfan Qadir.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa resumed hearing the case on Wednesday and observers said the government’s response could increase tensions between the judiciary and the government.
The government’s response said the prime minister follows the decisions of the cabinet, which has so far not advised him to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to revive the graft cases against the president.
The government further said that the option of initiating contempt of court proceedings against the prime minister for not acting on the apex court’s order had ended with the passage of the new Contempt of Court Act.
The new law protects top government functionaries from contempt for their executive actions.
The government also asked the court to review its order directing the premier to reopen the corruption cases in Switzerland.
On July 12, the apex court had directed Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to comply with its order to revive the corruption cases against Zardari by July 25.
It had warned that if the premier failed to act on its directive, the court “may initiate any appropriate action under the constitution and the law”.
The same case had cost Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, his job.
Gilani was convicted of contempt in April after he refused to act on the apex court’s orders to reopen the graft cases.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry subsequently disqualified Gilani for five years.
The court has been pressuring the government to act against the president since December 2009, when it annulled a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.
The ruling Pakistan People’s Party and some legal experts have accused the apex court of bias for focussing only on the cases against Zardari.
The government has maintained that it cannot ask the Swiss authorities to act against the president as he enjoys immunity within Pakistan and abroad.
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