Pakistan high court postpones order to reopen investigation of president

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Wednesday granted another two weeks for the new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf [BBC profile] to comply with its order to reopen the investigation against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. The adjournment of the case came after [Al Jazeera report] the attorney general requested more time to resolve the tension between the legislature and judiciary. The government was ordered to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the investigation against the Pakistani president on corruption allegations. Ashraf could face the same fate as his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who was disqualified from being a member of Parliament after his April contempt conviction [JURIST reports] and removed from office. It is unlikely that the allowance of an additional two weeks will cause Ashraf to open an investigation.

The country's judiciary has been in conflict with the executive branch since political leaders have rejected the court's order to investigate into the president's alleged corruption. In mid-July Zardari signed the Contempt of Court Bill 2012, which would shield senior officials from contempt of court proceedings after it was approved by both the lower [JURIST reports] and upper [AFP report] houses of the national parliament. The new law was seen as an attempt to exempt Ashraf from a possible upcoming contempt of court proceeding for failure to reopen the investigation against Zardari. The court had ordered [JURIST report] the new prime minister in late June to investigate the corruption allegations against the president. Ashraf, however, has argued that the president is immune from prosecution under the country's constitution. The court in response claimed that no one is above the law and thus, the investigation against the president should proceed. During the same month, a Pakistani court ordered [JURIST report] the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin [BBC profile], a former health minister from Punjab Province and the nominee for the country's then-vacant prime minister position for allegations that he was involved in irregularities in the amount of the controlled drug Ephedrine circulating within the country during his tenure as health minister. The arrest order was issued the same day the president nominated Shahabuddin to fill the position of former prime minister Gilani.

 

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