Pakistan PM to allow Switzerland to reopen corruption charges against president

[JURIST] Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced on Tuesday that he will allow Switzerland to reopen corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. Appearing before the Supreme Court [official website] in connection with the ongoing standoff between Pakistan's judiciary and executive officials regarding Zardari's case, Ashraf agreed to draft a letter [Dawn report] to Switzerland by September 25 that will enable the case to be reopened. The corruption case is thought to involve approximately USD $60 million. In June the Supreme Court ordered Ashraf to reopen the case [JURIST report] by writing the letter to Swiss authorities. However, at the end of August, Ashraf appeared in court to explain why the Supreme Court should not charge him with contempt [JURIST report] for failure to write the letter.

These proceedings in Pakistan exemplify the mounting tension in the country between the judicial and executive branches of government. In August the Supreme Court granted Ashraf three additional weeks [JURIST report] to urge Switzerland to reopen the old corruption case against Zardari. Some have argued that the judiciary in Pakistan is becoming too powerful. The former prime minister Yousef Raza Gilani [BBC profile] was disqualified from being a member of Parliament after an April contempt conviction [JURIST reports] and removed from office when he declined to follow the same court order that has been given to Ashraf. In early August the government announced that it will petition the high court to review its decision nullifying [JURIST reports] the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 which was passed to shield the country's new prime minister from contempt charges. The bill was passed by the upper [AFP report] and lower houses of the national parliament and signed [JURIST reports] by Zardari in July. The court had ordered [JURIST report] the new prime minister in late June to investigate the corruption allegations against the president. Ashraf, like his predecessor, has argued that the president is immune from prosecution under the country's constitution.

 

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