Pakistani PM offers to resign after court notice

Pakistani PM offers to resign after court notice

Pakistani PM offers to resign after court notice

This file photo shows Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Gilani says he is ready to quit if the step would strengthen the government and the Parliament. AFP photo

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday offered to resign shortly after the Supreme Court served him a notice for contempt of court for failing to reopen graft cases against the president, according to a media report.

Gilani told a meeting of top leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its partners in the ruling coalition that he was ready to quit if the step strengthened the government and parliament, Pakistani based ARY news channel quoted its sources as saying. Gilani convened the meeting of the PPP and its allies hours ahead of a crucial session of parliament that will vote on a resolution to shore up the civilian government. President Asif Ali Zardari too joined the meeting.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ordered Gilani to appear before the bench Jan. 19 to explain his refusal to reopen the case, the Associated Press reported, injecting fresh uncertainty into the crisis threatening to engulf the country. If the court convicts Gilani of contempt, he could serve up to six months in prison and be disqualified from holding office.

The government already is locked in a bitter conflict with the army, and yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling boosted the sense the administration could fall, squeezed between the court and Pakistan’s powerful generals. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against Zardari that dates back to the 1990s and involves the jurisdiction of the Swiss courts. The government has refused, saying Zardari has immunity, and supporters say the court is pursuing a vendetta against the country’s civilian leadership.

Conflicting reports on Taliban’s leader

The government also is at odds with the army over an unsigned memo delivered to Washington last year offering the U.S. a raft of favorable security policies in exchange for its help in thwarting a supposed military coup. The army was outraged by the memo and pushed the Supreme Court to open an inquiry into the scandal against the government’s wishes.

Apart from the political crisis, four Pakistan intelligence officials told Reuters on Jan. 15 that the leader of the Pakistani Taliban is believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike. The officials said they intercepted wireless radio chatter between Taliban fighters detailing how Hakimullah Mehsud was killed while travelling in a convoy to a meeting in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. A senior military official said there was no official confirmation that the Pakistani state’s deadliest enemy had been killed. The Pakistani Taliban issued a denial. U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, could not confirm his death.