In a major blow to the Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the supreme court on Friday rejected his appeal against contempt of court charge.
The court has asked him to appear before it on February 13 to be charged with contempt of court for defying its order to write to the Swiss government to reopen the cases against president Asif Ali Zardari.
Gilani had cited precedents in India and other countries to move a plea in the court against its order summoning him for framing contempt charges.
An eight-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry rejected the appeal soon after the Premier\\\’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan concluded his arguments this morning.
The Prime Minister, who had earlier appeared before the court on January 19, had pleaded that the President enjoys immunity and as such the cases cannot be reopened against him. The SC bench had on February 02 summoned him for the framing of charges.
If Gilani is convicted for contempt, he could be jailed for six months and barred from holding public office.
When Ahsan sought 10 to 15 more days to consult the Premier, the bench said it was willing to give him 10 minutes. Shortly after this, the bench issued a short order rejecting Gilani\\\’s appeal.
The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
The government has refused to reopen the cases, saying the Constitution gives the President complete immunity from prosecution in criminal cases in Pakistan and abroad. During yesterday\\\’s proceedings, the Chief Justice said the contempt proceedings against Gilani would automatically end if the premier wrote a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against Zardari.
The person involved in these cases is the head of the Prime Minister\\\’s party but no one is above the law, the Chief Justice said.
Besides Switzerland, the government will also have to approach other countries to revive graft cases, the Chief Justice indicated.
Later, Ahsan told the reporters outside the court that the prime minister would now appear before the court on February 13.