Pakistani court engaged in showdown with new PM
Newly elected PM Ashraf (R) prays at the grave of founder of Pakistan People Party, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, as they visit the mausoleum of slain former PM Benazir Bhutto. EPA photo
Pakistan’s Supreme Court yesterday gave the new prime minister two weeks to indicate whether he would ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against the president.
The move indicates that the judiciary is unwilling to end a showdown with the government that could force elections before February 2013,
when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year mandate. The court on June 19 dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister after convicting him of contempt in April for refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar cases.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) coalition elected Raja Pervez Ashraf as premier last week, after judges issued an arrest warrant for its first suggested replacement. Five days later, Justice Nasir ul Mulk directed the attorney general to find out how the government intended to deal with the Swiss cases and report back on July 12.
“The new prime minister was elected last week and we trust that he will honor the direction given by this court,” Agence France-Presse quoted Mulk as saying. “In the meantime we direct the attorney general to obtain instructions from the prime minister and inform the court... on the next date of the hearing on July 12,” he said. The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
Ashraf faces his own corruption allegations from his tenure as water and power minister, and many believe he will be forced out soon, either by elections or the judiciary.