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Protecting Zardari

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
July 14, 2012 12:54:34 am

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Protecting Zardari

EVEN Yousuf Raza Gilani’s resignation from the office of Pakistan’s prime minister last month hasn’t got the judiciary off the PPP-led government’s back. With Raja Pervez Ashraf now PM,the court’s target has shifted. The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is hearing the case of non-compliance with its order to the PM to write to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

Daily Times reported on July 13: “After dismissing former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on June 19,the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to indicate by July 25 whether he would write to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against President Asif Ali Zardari…”

New contempt law

SINCE Gilani has demitted office,there has been buzz that Zardari would enact a law to grant him blanket immunity and his successor assurance that he wouldn’t feel the heat from the court on account of the letter. The same day that the court questioned Ashraf,it was reported that a new law to protect senior government functionaries from contempt of court charges came into existence. Daily Times reported: “President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday accorded assent to the Contempt of Court Bill 2012,making it into a law. The law would exempt top government figures like the PM,governors,chief ministers… from contempt proceedings. The president signed the bill,already passed by the National Assembly on July 9 and by the Senate on July 11… The new law overrides the Contempt of Court Act 1976 and repeals the contempt of court ordinances of 2003 and 2004. The bill received strong protest by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and is being challenged in the apex court…” Daily Times reported on July 13: “The newly passed contempt of court law was challenged in the Supreme Court on Thursday. A petition… stated that the new law (clashed) with the articles 204/2-A and 175 of the Constitution. The petition made the federal government a party to the case.”

Double standards?

THE other legal question in Pakistan’s parliament pertains to the dual nationality of some legislators of the federal and provincial Houses. Recently,two members of the Sindh Assembly lost their membership and federal interior minister Rehman Malik has been entangled in a controversy about his British passport. Federal law minister Farooq Naek presented a bill in the Senate for the amendment of the dual nationality law of Pakistan,seeking permission for the holders of other nationalities to contest for legislative office in Pakistan.

Dawn reported on July 10: “The government introduced in the Senate on Tuesday a bill proposing to allow holders of dual nationality to be elected to parliament,but it annoyed both its friends and foes… with Law Minister Farooq Naek being the lone voice in its favour. The bill was referred to the standing committee concerned amid protests by members who wanted the chair to ascertain if a majority wanted to block the process. The move prompted the Awami National Party (ANP) to walk out of the house and it was joined by the PML-N.” Daily Times reported on July 13 that overseas Pakistanis welcomed the bill and asserted that their dual nationality shouldn’t become a ground for questioning their allegiance to Pakistan. An editorial in The News on July 7 stated: “the PPP-led coalition is… fighting the dual nationality case in the court of public opinion. For now,the false impression is being created that the Supreme Court has capriciously disallowed dual nationals from being members of parliament and this is just one part of a larger strategy to challenge the pre-eminence of parliament… it is not the Supreme Court of Pakistan but the Constitution of this country that bars lawmakers from being dual nationals… what is so outrageous about demanding that elected representatives should be willing to renounce any other citizenship and with that their stakes in another country’s future? Why would those aspiring to be leaders not want to reassure voters by pledging their absolute commitment to Pakistan and only to Pakistan?”

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