SC rejects Pak govt's plea to review directive on graft cases

SC rejects Pak govt's plea to review directive on graft cases

Pakistan's Supreme Court today rejected the government's request to review a directive to the Prime Minister to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, setting the stage for a fresh slugfest between the executive and an assertive judiciary.

A day before the expiry of a deadline set by the apex court for reviving corruption cases in Switzerland against Zardari, the government informed the court that the federal cabinet has made no decision to approach Swiss authorities to reopen the cases.

The government conveyed its position in a reply submitted to the Supreme Court Registrar's office by Attorney General Irfan Qadir.

The government 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.

The government further said the option of initiating contempt of court proceedings against the premier 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.

The Registrar's office returned the reply with objections to the requests made by the government.

The court said that instead of submitting a miscellaneous application, the government should have filed a petition to review its orders. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa will resume hearing the case tomorrow and observers said the government's response could increase tensions between the judiciary and the government.

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, the court might "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 Peoples 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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