Gilani gets lawyer in contempt case (Evening Lead)

January 17th, 2012 - 7:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, Jan 17 (IANS) Prominent Pakistani lawyer Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan will represent Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case.

Ahsan, also a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), met the prime minister Tuesday, Dawn News reported.

On Monday, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk issued a contempt notice against the prime minister for failing to write to the Swiss authorities for reopening cases against Zardari.

Gilani has been directed to personally appear before the court Jan 19.

Gilani Monday told the National Assembly he would appear before the Supreme Court, and that the government wanted no confrontation with any institution, including the judiciary.

The prime minister offered to resign Monday after the Supreme Court issued him the contempt notice.

Zardari, accused of graft, had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was issued in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate the return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Zardari. The NRO was struck down as void by the Supreme Court in 2009.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik Tuesday said the nation appreciates the prime minister’s decision to personally appear before the apex court and that this step would help remove misunderstandings.

Malik said the government has always respected the apex court and implemented its decisions.

Meanwhile, a petition was filed Tuesday in the Lahore registry of the Supreme Court against the contempt notice issued to Gilani.

Lawyer Zafarullah in his petition said that under Article 248-1 of the Pakistani Constitution, the prime minister enjoys the same immunity as the president, the Nation daily reported.

He said writing to the Swiss authorities was not the job of the prime minister.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Nawaz Sharif said Gilani should accept the court orders if he believes in democracy.

Sharif said the situation would not have worsened if the government had acted upon the advice of his party, the Nation reported.

The judges who endorsed the “unconstitutional steps of dictators” should also be held accountable, the paper quoted Sharif as saying.

In another development, a petition was moved in the Supreme Court against the government’s decision to sack defence secretary Lt. Gen. (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi.

The petition — moved by advocate Tariq Asad — urged the court to direct Gilani to withdraw the order till the probe into the memo scandal is over, the Dawn reported.

The government sacked Lodhi Jan 11 “on allegations of misconduct and for creating misunderstanding between the state institutions”.

The prime minister, former defence secretary and acting defence secretary have been named respondents in the petition.

PML-N leader and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif Tuesday said that by not implementing the Supreme Court’s orders, the federal government had ridiculed the country’s judiciary, the Dawn News reported.

Sharif said the government has a history of disregarding court orders, though the prime minister’s decision to appear before the apex court was a positive development.

However, the chief minister said that regardless of the government’s “incompetence and corrupt practices”, democracy as a system of governance must continue in the country.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan also said Monday the country would stand by the Supreme Court if the government decides to take on the court.

He said the government did not comply with the court orders so as to protect President Zardari.

“The whole nation is with the SC. The constitution, not parliament, is sovereign and no one will accept martial law,” Geo News quoted Imran as saying.

In August 2008, Swiss authorities, acting on the request of the Pakistani government, had closed the money laundering case against Zardari and released $60 million frozen in Swiss accounts.

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