Pak MPs clear bill to shield top leaders

A bill aimed at shielding top Pakistani leaders from contempt charges and curbing the apex court’s efforts to push Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf into reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari has been approved by the lower house of parliament.

Law Minister Farooq H Naek moved the Contempt of Court Bill of 2012 in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament on Monday night.

It was subsequently passed after a brief debate amidst protests from the main opposition PML-N, which is opposed to the bill.

Zardari had convened a special session of Parliament to introduce the bill. It will also be moved in the Senate, where it is expected to be passed as the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has a majority.

The government intends to get the bill passed by both houses before the apex court takes up the issue of reviving the corruption cases against Zardari on July 12.

The Contempt of Court Bill provides blanket immunity to top government functionaries for executive actions. It can also be used to launch disciplinary proceedings against a judge without such a move coming under the ambit of contempt.

Ashraf became the prime minister last month after his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was disqualified by the Supreme Court for refusing to approach Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against Zardari.

Speaking in the National Assembly after the bill was passed, Ashraf said the proposed law was not aimed at creating obstacles for the judges or making someone a “holy cow”.

The bill was primarily aimed at protecting the right to appeal in contempt of court cases as this is a right guaranteed to every citizen, he said.

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