Pakistan’s apex court turns down PM’s appeal against indictment

The Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected on Friday(Feb. 10) the appeal of country’s Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani filed against his indictment in contempt of court notice, asking him to appear before it on February 13 when the charges would be framed against him for not reopening graft cases against President  Asif Ali Zardari.

“Our appeal was rejected. As a result of this, Prime Minister Yousuf  Raza Gilani will be charged for contempt of court on February 13. The Prime Minister will appear in court on February 13,” Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan told reporters outside the court. An eight-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry rejected the appeal soon after the premier’s lawyer concluded his arguments this morning.

Ahsan reiterated that Gilani had done no wrong by not reviving the cases against Head of State as he enjoyed immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and abroad. Gilani will now have to appear before another seven-judge bench on February 13 to be charged with contempt of court for defying its order to write to the Swiss government to reopen the cases against President Zardari.

The Prime Minister, who had earlier appeared before the court on January 19, had pleaded that the President enjoys immunity and as such the cases cannot be reopened against him. The Supreme Court bench had on February 2 summoned him for the framing of charges. If Gilani is convicted for contempt, he could be jailed for six months and barred from holding public office.

 His lawyer resumed his arguments this morning and said Gilani had only acted on the advice of his legal aides, but the Chief Justice insisted that Ahsan should clearly tell the Prime Minister that he had to act on the court’s orders.

When Ahsan sought 10 to 15 more days to consult the premier, the bench said it was willing to give him 10 minutes. Shortly after this, the bench issued a short order rejecting Gilani’s appeal. 

Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive cases of alleged money laundering against President Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

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