IN CONTEMPT

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Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani stands in the dock to face contempt of court charges as the seven-member special bench of the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to indict him on February 13, after the judges did not agree to his counsel Aitzaz Ahsen’s arguments that contempt had not taken place.
The bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, on Thursday summoned Prime Minister Gilani on February 13 to indict him with contempt of court for not implementing its orders in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case, requiring the government to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
It is the second time in the country’s history that the SC has brought contempt charges against an incumbent PM. According to constitutional experts, the move plunges a fragile government deeper into a crisis that could force early elections within months.
The bench, also comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed, decided to indict Gilani after Ahsen failed to convince it that President Zardari enjoyed complete immunity under Article 248 of the constitution. It has been a clear position of the government that it would not write the letter against its own president, who is also co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which – the president had himself announced – had decided against writing the letter. “The party has decided not to write the letter, come what may,” the president had said in a TV interview.
After the court decision, the coalition government is in a difficult political situation which may end up in a crisis in case Gilani is convicted. This may push other political parties to call for fresh elections. However, the choice is still with the prime minister to handle the situation by implementing the court order and save himself from indictment and subsequent disqualification from holding any public office. But it remains to be seen whether the government submits before the court with the prime minister tendering an apology, or if it decides to take the collision course.
During the hearing, Justice Nasirul Mulk observed that there were grounds to proceed against Gilani over his refusal to follow a court order and ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against the president. “After the preliminary hearing, we are satisfied that prima facie (at first sight) there is enough case for further proceeding into the matter. (The case is) adjourned for February 13 for framing charges. The prime minister is required to remain present in the court,” Justice Mulk said in the order.
Gilani had appeared in court on January 19, refusing to back down on Zardari’s immunity, although analysts said he risked being convicted, jailed for up to six months and disqualified from holding public office.
The appointment of Ahsen to defend Gilani in the contempt case was seen as a conciliatory gesture from the prime minister’s camp, as Ahsen is hugely respected by judges for his role in forcing the government to reinstate the independent judiciary in March 2009.
The allegations of corruption against Zardari were frozen with the promulgation of the NRO, a political amnesty law passed in 2007, which the court overturned on December 16, 2009.
At the outset of the hearing, Ahsen apprised the court of the Rules of Business over the advice taken by the prime minister. He said the premier was authorised to reject a summary, however, if the prime minister did not reject the advice, it was not a crime. He said the premier had approved a new summary on September 23, 2010, which was drafted and put up by erstwhile law secretary Aqil Mirza.
He said according to the summary, the Swiss cases against President Zardari and slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto were not closed in response to a letter written by former attorney general Malik Muhammad Qayyum. Instead, he said, these cases were closed by the Swiss authorities because of insufficient evidence.
“The prime minister preferred the summary over the court orders,” Justice Mulk noted, to which Ahsen replied that as the case proceeded further and the court ordered that the letter be written, it would be written.
Justice Khosa then said the court had asked for correction of the error that had been committed. “Everyone knows, the advice given to the premier is not correct,” Justice Khosa said. Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry noted that during the hearing of the NRO review plea, the government had not said that the cases had been closed.
“Suppose we discharge the contempt notice and withdraw the proceeding, what will you do? Will you write a letter or not?” Justice Osmany asked Ahsen, who said first the contempt notice had to be discharged on merit. “Why has the letter not been written so far?” Justice Khosa asked. Ahsen, however, argued that the cases in Switzerland stood disposed of.
He said the attorney general of Geneva had stated that the Swiss cases against Zardari and Benazir had been closed because of lack of evidence. He said the late attorney general Chaudhry Farooq had written a letter to the Swiss government in 1997 for legal assistance and in response to that letter, over 1,000 documents came to Pakistan on whose basis the SGS and Co-Techna trials were held in Pakistan. He said in these cases, all the accused, except President Zardari, had been acquitted.
Justice Khosa said the sole proprietary was that the trial of the case should be conducted in Switzerland. He said if someone was convicted, the money would be back in Pakistan. “Your contention is that… the Swiss cases stand closed,” Justice Mulk told Ahsen, adding that the premier said the president enjoyed immunity.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked the premier’s counsel to defend him on strong and solid grounds. Justice Osmany said: “You (Ahsen) are saying that you were mistaken… conceived misconception … and seek opportunity.” Aitzaz replied: “You have pushed me to a cul-de-sac and indicted.” “Why don’t you follow the court order (write the letter)?” Justice Mulk asked him again.
Later, the bench took a half-hour break, apparently for consultation with each other, and when it assembled again, the judges announced the order.
Tainted by corruption allegations, Zardari spent 11 years in jail on charges ranging from corruption to murder, although he was never convicted. He and his late wife, Benazir, were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in Pakistan in the 1990s. A Swiss prosecutor has since said it would be “impossible” to reopen the case against Zardari since he benefits from immunity as a head of state.

28 COMMENTS

    • Well in Pkistan the whole system is tottaly corrupt,from judiciary to the nations so callled elected public servants. Do not expect anything positive out of this whole senario.They all are corrupt period.

  1. I shall be more than happy to see this posh, highly polished, just out from the laundry of the dry cleaning shop of five star hotel, but with an almost empty upper chamber, and a most blindly obedient thing of his master, considering himself an 'adna karkun' of baichara poor masses, out from the helms. This may bring some 'afaqa' to this 'bimar' nation!

  2. An incompetent and the most corrupt Prime Minister and a yes man of Zardari. He has shielded the President for all his irregularities, corruption and treasonous activities against the state. In addition to the Contempt of Court, he should also be tried for being an accomplice of Zardari for all his criminal activities.

  3. It is important news. I would not say it is good news neither encouraging news. I wish this day had not come. But if all my wishes were to be granted Pakistan would have been a country where its people lived in almost complete harmony with their basic needs of security, education and health were met.

    I am not disappointed with this decision and will wait and see the outcome.

    Those who strive for 'civil supremacy' must understand not only the responsibility but also the cost of it.

  4. It is not good r bad news but a news that will lead the future course of political history of this country. Here one thing is very clear that SC never had courage to dare to brought the culprits who had never followed the rule of law make the constitution abeyance. SC always went against the Civilian Governments. Zindabad Supreme Court of Pakistan.

  5. This is a completely biased SC. So many cases of nationla importance are pending in the court like the Asghar Khan case or the missing persons case or the corruption cases against PML (N) however all this court does is go after a witch hunt against PPP. This Chief Justice who entered Judiciary on a Baluchistan domicile although he belongs to Faisalabad should never have been reinstated.
    However the public were a bit bored after the memogate case had fizzled out so I guess the Judiciary has provided another hot topic to the ghairat brigade of the talk shows.

  6. The judges must be rejoicing by indicting the PM. I wish the justices had guts to indict Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha who beyond doubt were recently acting in a manner which was clearly a subordination in contravention of the constitution. Would the CJP send summons to both generals to explain why they issued statement through their mouthpiece ISPR and would the CJP have guts to summon them to appear before the judges to explain where the missing persons are who was responsible for murder of many.

    I am not worried if the PM loses his office because another one can take his place but I am against singling out the leader belonging to the PPP which has been struggling to prove its writ and obviously not been able to devote to day to day affairs of the state. My appeal to the CJP is for God sake take action against the perpetrators of 12th May carnage and those who were involved in killing thousands of innocent people by an ethnic and terrorist organisation.

  7. It is requested to please refrain from abusive language on the official Pakistan Today page. Any one doing so, will be banned from the page. We hope you all, will adher to the official policy of our page. Thankyou.

    • I strongly endorse the announced policy of Pakistan Today. One can hold any opinion. There is no harm in using strong language as long as it is decent. But foul and abusive language must not be allowed.

  8. I wish worst for this Corrupt and liar. He must be tought lesson for he has been doing for last four. May Allah make him rot in hell

    • Won't you wish some clean air and sanitation in hell. It's a place where majority of the population live and party. Come with me, I will show you around…

  9. Down with these generals & judges alliance.
    They must respect the mandate of the people & should stop implementing this judicial dictatatorship.

  10. @Muhammad you are singing the same song… daily wage worker from PID who was given job by haqqani to do Media trial of judiciary . Honey he has gone back to his country .. You job count down has started.. :))) its better you should start learn selling Pokaray… in Multan ..

  11. The Supreme Court's logic that immunity under Article 248(2) needs to be claimed. I am a citizen of Pakistan. I have a right to life. Do I need to claim it first, otherwise anybody can shoot me?
    The matter is very simple. Asif Zardari enjoys immunity. Judges should take this fact into consideration on their own. Letter can be written after his tenure ends. We all know, 60 million dollars are not going to be repatriated. And there are hundreds of thousands of cases pending in our higher judiciary since decades. So, what is the hurry in this particular case? It will only earn us embarrassment in the comity of nations. There seems to be some personal vendetta going on.

  12. i am very upset with the supreme court
    time pass kar rahe hain…………….. wastage of time and wastage of money

  13. When the courts fail to deliver justice, then comes the verdict of the massess in the form of revolution

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