Pakistan high court retracts PM's contempt charge

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Wednesday retracted a contempt of court charge filed against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf after approving notification of his compliance with a June directive that ordered the revival of corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. Pakistan's Minister for Law and Justice, Farooq Naek, on November 9 submitted required documents and correspondence receipts to a five-judge bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali. After review, the court officially retracted the charge [PTI report]. The court has sought the revival of charges against Zardari since January, but Ashraf delayed his promise to comply [JURIST report] with the more recent June directive until September, when he assured the court that he would draft a letter to Swiss authorities urging them to reinstate charges against Zardari. The president is accused of using Swiss bank accounts to fund bribes of approximately USD $60 million.

Tensions between the country's judiciary and executive branch remain strong amidst the government's near year-long refusal to follow the high court's order to probe corruption allegations against the president. In August the Supreme Court granted Ashraf three additional weeks [JURIST report] to urge Switzerland to revive corruption charges against Zardari. The court in April brought a similar contempt charge [JURIST report] against Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for his refusal to follow the same January directive. After failing to persuade [JURIST report] the court that the president is immune from prosecution under the country's constitution, Gilani was disqualified [JURIST report] from office and Parliament. As a result, some have since argued that Pakistan's judiciary is becoming too powerful. The conflict between the government and the court originally stems from an order that struck down [JURIST report] the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text] in 2009, 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.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.