Pakistan high court warns PM to comply with order to investigate president

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] Tuesday issued an order warning Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani [BBC profile] that continued failure to comply with court rulings could result in contempt of court proceedings or his removal from office [order, PDF]. The court said that Gilani has failed to follow court orders [JURIST report] to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. The court also accused the government of violating the constitution and threatening the balance of power in the country:

Obedience to the command of a court, and that too of the Apex Court of the country, is not a game of chess or a game of hide and seek. It is, of course, a serious business and governance of the State and maintaining the constitutional balance and equilibrium cannot be allowed to be held hostage to political tomfoolery or shenanigans. ... We may unhesitatingly observe that in our country governed by a Constitution political loyalty cannot be accepted as stronger than loyalty to the State and dictates of a political master or party cannot be allowed to be put up as a defence to failure to obey the Constitution.
The Chief Justice will review the case and consider several options suggested by the court, including executing court proceedings against Gilani and Zardari, ordering Gilani excluded from Parliament, forming a commission to aid in the performance of the court orders or delaying a decision to allow the people to decide the next step. A hearing is scheduled for January 16, which Gilani must attend.

Pakistan has faced an ongoing struggle with corruption that the courts have attempted to battle. Last month, the Supreme Court formed a judicial committee to investigate a secret memo [JURIST report] sent from an unknown Pakistani source to US Admiral Mike Mullen in May asking for help in preventing a suspected army coup. Zardari and former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani have been accused of writing or having knowledge of the memo, and both have denied these allegations. Tuesday's warning stems from court orders issued when the Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text] in 2010, which granted immunity to Zardari and 8,000 other government officials from charges of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and terrorism between January 1986 and October 1999. The NRO was signed [JURIST report] by former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] in 2007.

 

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