In a soup
Islamabad, Feb. 10: The Pakistan Supreme Court turned down the Prime Ministers appeal against a summons in a contempt case today and is set to charge him on Monday.
If convicted, Yousuf Raza Gilani could be forced to step down and face up to six months in jail. The dismissal comes after Gilani failed to assure the court that he would write to the Swiss government to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
An eight-judge panel, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, heard Gilanis counsel Aitzaz Ahsan for two days before dismissing the appeal.
Yesterday, the court had hinted that it would drop the indictment against Gilani in return for an assurance by his government that they would write to the Swiss government and implement the courts 2009 judgment that struck down a graft amnesty known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
Today, Chaudhry asked Ahsan to talk to Gilani and see if he was willing to write the letter. However, Ahsans response that he had no mandate to do that prompted the court to turn down the appeal.
In his order, Chaudhry said the appeal is dismissed.
According to observers, the appeals dismissal will prolong a standoff between the government and the judiciary which, many believe, is being backed by the military.
Our appeal was rejected. As a result of this, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will be charged for contempt of court on February 13. Inshallah, the Prime Minister will appear (in court) on February 13, Ahsan told reporters outside the court.
Gilani had cited precedents in India and other countries while moving his appeal against the courts February 2 order summoning him for framing contempt charges.
Ahsan, in his argument before the court, said that Gilani had done no wrong by not reviving the cases against Zardari as the President enjoyed immunity from prosecution within Pakistan. Gilani will now have to appear before another Supreme Court bench on Monday to be charged with contempt of court for defying its order to write to the Swiss government.
This is the third time that a Pakistani Prime Minister has been issued a contempt notice by the Supreme Court. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif faced similar orders.
Analysts believe that the Prime Minister will now have to appear before the court and explain his position.
Mr Gilani will have to respond to the charges that will be framed against him. He can be jailed for up to six months if he is found guilty of the contempt, former chief justice Saeed-uz Zaman Siddiqui said.
Another leading lawyer and former law minister Khalid Ranjha said it would be now up to the court to accept or reject an apology if tendered by Gilani.
Does he (Gilani) not know that the court had passed a judgment that the government has to implement, Chaudhry said, adding that the court showed a lot of patience and refrained from taking any decision in haste as it involved the countrys Prime Minister.
The court has summoned Gilani to appear in person on February 13 to face the indictment over his refusal to re-open corruption cases against Zardari.
The NRO had been promulgated by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007 as part of a power-sharing deal with Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
She was killed in a suicide attack the same year, paving the way for Zardari to become the head of state following the February 2008 parliamentary elections.
The court ordered the re-opening of all corruption cases under its judgment in 2009 that scrapped the NRO which benefitted several influential politicians.