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Pak to seek review of contempt law

Islamabad, Aug. 6: Pakistan’s government has decided in principle to challenge the Supreme Court's verdict that struck down the controversial Contempt of Court Act, 2012 last week.

A five-judge panel of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had Friday declared the Act as "ultra vires of the Constitution".

The new act had been passed by the two houses of the parliament last month in a bid to save Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf from facing disqualification over his government's refusal to write to a letter to the Swiss authorities asking them to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The decision to file a petition seeking review of the court's decision was taken after a series of meetings by President Zardari with legal and constitutional experts.

Law ministry officials said the government is also likely to file another petition against the July 12 order of the Supreme Court in which the prime minister had been asked to implement one of its earlier judgements, which scrapped the controversial National Recconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated by former President Pervez Musharraf to grant amnesty to over 8,000 political from graft charges including President Asif Ali Zardari and other top politicians as part of a power sharing deal with slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

The government will file the review petitions before August 8 when the court is scheduled to hear the NRO implementation cases, said a government official.

The Contempt of Court Act, which was passed by the parliament last month amid strong criticism by the main opposition parties exempted the president, the prime minister and ministers from contempt, a move that analysts saw as a bid to prevent Ashraf's dispatch from the office.

The apex court had disqualified Ashraf's predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani in June for refusing to write the same letter to Swiss authorities, which among others also benefitted Zardari's close confidante, Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Known as "Mr. Ten percent" for his involvement in corruption cases, Zardari was among over 8,000 politicians, government officials and bureaucrats who got amnesty from graft charges under the NRO. But Gilani, who became Prime Minister after his Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP) came to power in March 2008, had refused to order re-opening of cases.

Bhutto and Zardari allegedly used Swiss bank accounts to launder about 12 million dollars in bribes paid by different companies seeking contracts for customs inspection in Pakistan in the 1990s

 
 
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