Zardari case: Pak SC forms larger bench for July 12 hearing

Zardari case: Pak SC forms larger bench for July 12 hearing

Pakistan Supreme Court has formed a five-judge larger bench for the case related to its directive to the government to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, which will come up for hearing on July 12.

The bench, constituted yesterday by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, will be headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

The apex court has set July 12 as the deadline for Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to explain his government's stance on reviving the cases against Zardari in Switzerland.

The case cost former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani his job last month. The apex court convicted Gilani for contempt in April for refusing to act on its orders to reopen the cases and he was disqualified for five years in June.

During the last hearing of the case, a three-judge bench had said in its order that the apex court hoped Prime Minister Ashraf "will honour the direction given by this court."

Ashraf is not required to personally appear during the hearing on July 12 and Attorney General Irfan Qadir will present the government's stance to the apex court. 

The head of the new five-judge bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, is a close confidant of the Chief Justice and was part of the seven-judge bench that convicted Gilani in April.

The apex court has been pushing the government to reopen the cases against the President since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and abroad.

The government also plans to introduce a bill to amend existing contempt of court laws and to give immunity to top leaders like the President and Prime Minister.

Legal experts have said that Prime Minister Ashraf could meet the same fate as Gilani if he continues to defy the apex court.

Ashraf has made it clear that his stand on reopening the graft cases is the same as that of Gilani, and that his government will not approach the Swiss authorities.

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