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Pakistan PM appears in Supreme Court to face contempt charge

PTI Islamabad | Updated on March 13, 2018

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf today appeared in Pakistan’s Supreme Court to face a contempt charge for failing to act on orders to reopen graft cases against the President, marking his second appearance in the court.

Ashraf was driven to the main entrance of the apex court in a SUV at around 9 am. Wearing a gray bandh gala suit, he emerged from the vehicle and waved at his supporters standing outside the building before going inside.

Inside courtroom no 4, Ashraf sat flanked by several federal ministers and leaders of parties in the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Shortly before the hearing began, federal minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government would present its viewpoint to the court in keeping with the laid down process and procedures.

“The government will exercise all options as any confrontation between state institutions will not be good,” Awan told reporters outside the court.

The government will work with the Supreme Court as the country heads towards the next general election, she said.

At the last hearing on August 27, a five-judge Bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa accepted Ashraf’s plea for more time to address the issue of reopening the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and gave him three weeks.

Ashraf is the second premier to appear in the apex court to face a contempt charge for refusing to revive the cases against Zardari in Switzerland.

His predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was convicted of contempt and disqualified in June.

Last night, the premier and the President jointly chaired a meeting of parties in the ruling coalition and discussed Ashraf’s appearance in the apex court.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the PPP and its allies had decided that the premier would appear in the Supreme Court again and the coalition partners would accompany him as a mark of solidarity.

Babar further said that the coalition partners had reiterated their “full support” to the government.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive 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 in Pakistan and abroad.

The ruling Pakistan People’s Party and some legal experts have accused the apex court of acting in a biased manner by going after only Zardari while ignoring the other beneficiaries of the graft amnesty.

Legal experts also believe that the apex court and the government are running out of options and this could lead to a confrontation between the two institutions.

The PPP has said it is willing to nominate other persons to become the premier if Ashraf is disqualified.

Extensive security measures were put in place today for Ashraf’s second appearance in the apex court.

About 700 policemen were deployed in and around the court complex.

Special cameras were installed in the courtrooms, entry gates and reception areas of the Supreme Court to ensure decorum and security, officials said.

Entry to courtroom No 4, where the hearing is being held, was restricted to holders of special passes. Journalists had to deposit their mobile phones before entering the courtroom.

Published on September 18, 2012

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