The Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to appear in person later this month over his failure to comply with a standing court order to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The development comes just two months after the country's apex court disqualified Yousuf Raza Gilani, Ashraf's predecessor, from holding office. The court had earlier convicted Gilani after finding him guilty of contempt over the same issue.
Gilani was convicted of contempt in April for disobeying a Court order by not writing to the Swiss authorities seeking re-opening of a money laundering case against Zardari as directed by the Court on several occasions in the past. He was given a token sentence and avoided a jail term.
A Swiss court in 2003 had found Zardari and his assassinated wife Benazir Bhutto guilty in absentia of laundering millions of dollars received in kickbacks from Swiss firms while in power. The duo had appealed against that verdict, but the case was dropped in 2008 at the request of the Pakistani government.
The Supreme Court wanted the government to formally request the Swiss authorities to re-open the case. But Gilani insisted during his trial that Zardari was immune from prosecution as President and stressed the cases were politically-motivated.
The Court had earlier overturned an amnesty protecting Zardari and dozens of other top politicians from being prosecuted for corruption two years ago. Nevertheless, the previous civilian government led by Gilani had refrained from reopening the corruption cases, insisting they were a closed chapter.
Further, the Supreme Court had ruled last week that a new law exempting top government officials from contempt of court charges was unconstitutional, highlighting the deteriorating relations between the country's civilian government and the judiciary.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org