For the second time this year, contempt of court proceedings have been initiated against a Pakistan premier by the Supreme Court on Wednesday when Raja Parvez Ashraf was asked to appear before it on August 27 and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of the court.
Mr. Ashraf becomes the second Prime Minister of the country this year to be hauled before court for contempt and faces a fate similar to his predecessor, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, who was shown the door by the apex court for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Recapping the case against Mr. Gilani in its order and the stance taken by the Government since Mr. Ashraf took office on June 22, the five-judge bench said it was “pushed into such an unfortunate situation” of issuing a show cause notice to the Prime Minister and asking him to appear before it.
Before issuing the show cause notice, the bench observed “with respect to the esteemed elective office of the Prime Minister/Chief Executive that the ostensible calculated defiance on his part through adoption of dilatory tactics and putting up excuses for resisting implementation of this Court’s directions may know no bounds but at the same time restraint exercised by this Court is also not without any limit”.
Since he assumed office, Mr. Ashraf has been asked more than once by the Court whether his government would write to the Swiss authorities for reopening the cases against Mr. Zardari since the National Reconciliation Ordinance – an amnesty law brought in by former President Pervez Musharraf - had been annulled. The Government’s stance has remained unchanged that it cannot write the letter as Mr. Zardari enjoys presidential immunity.
This issue has already cost Mr. Gilani his job and membership of the National Assembly for five years, and it was certain even during the search for a successor that the incumbent would meet a similar fate unless either the executive or the judiciary blinked. For now both have dug their heels in and it remains to be seen whether another premier will be sent packing in what will be the last six months of this government’s term.