Rezaul H Laskar
Pakistans Supreme Court Thursday set July 25 deadline for Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to approach Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari,triggering a fresh political crisis over the issue which cost his predecessor,Yousuf Raza Gilani,his job.
Gilani was convicted of contempt in April and disqualified Gilani for five years last month after he refused to act on the apex courts orders to reopen the graft cases.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa directed Ashraf to write to the Swiss authorities without any further consultations on the matter with legal experts or within the government.
The apex court had earlier directed the Premier to inform it whether he would contact the Swiss authorities about the graft cases.
The bench said it expected the Premier to write to the Swiss authorities and furnish a report on complying with the courts order at the next hearing on July 25.
If the PM fails to do so,the court will take action under the Constitution against him,the bench warned.
The bench rejected Ashrafs response,submitted through Attorney General Irfan Qadir,that the issue of the graft cases was discussed by the Cabinet at a meeting Wednesday and the government wanted more time so that the Law Minister and Law Secretary,who had recently assumed office,could study the matter.
The ruling came just hours after President Zardari signed into law the Contempt of Court Bill,2012,which was passed by the National Assembly two days ago,aimed at protecting top government leaders from contempt of court proceedings.
The new law is intended to save Ashraf from possible disqualification by the court for refusing to reopen the cases related to alleged laundering of $60 million during ex-premier Benazir Bhuttos second term in the 1990s.