Pakistan's highest court said on Feb. 2 it would charge Prime
Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani with contempt of court for refusing to
reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan's Supreme Court decided it will formally try Prime
Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on contempt charges following his
refusal to implement Supreme Court orders to pursue criminal
proceedings against the president.
Mr. Gilani has now been summoned to appear before the court on
Feb. 13. The decision by the court reignites fears that the civilian
government is under threat following a cooling of tensions between
the government and the Army last week, and is seen as further
evidence that the country's popular judiciary is overstepping its
"The Supreme Court has the power to go forward with contempt of
court charges," says political analyst Hasan Askari Rizwi, "but I
think it is overstretching its domain, and this will cause greater
uncertainty and confusion in our already troubled politics."
If convicted, the prime minister could face up to six months in
jail and disqualification from public office.
In 2008, Pakistan's government, led by then military ruler Pervez
Musharraf, dropped a $12 million money-laundering case in
Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari that went back as far
as 1997, following an amnesty deal that allowed exiled politicians
to return to the country. The case in Switzerland collapsed because
of lack of evidence.
But the Supreme Court ruled the political amnesty void in 2009,
and ordered the government to send a letter to the Swiss government
to restart proceedings.
Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk told the court that there were grounds to
proceed against Gilani over the government's refusal to follow a
court order to request Swiss authorities to reopen the money
laundering case against Mr. Zardari.
The government argues, meanwhile, that as president, Zardari has
immunity from prosecution. Gilani's lawyers argue that he acted in
good faith on government officials' advice by not restarting the
request to prosecute the president.
In an impassioned plea before the seven Supreme Court judges
present, Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, referred to the judiciary's
long history of undermining democratically elected governments while
not holding the military to account, and urged them to take a
The lawyer, who is widely respected among Pakistan's judges for
his role in leading a nationwide lawyers' movement to restore judges
fired by former President Musharraf in 2008, said: "Three sitting
prime ministers have been prosecuted on contempt charges. …