Beleaguered Pakistan government appears to be in no mood to tone down in the battle of attrition when Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appears before the Supreme Court on Thursday in compliance with its direction.
Mr. Gilani, who is already involved in a tussle with the powerful Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is unlikely to offer apology to the court which has issued a contempt notice for failing to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, sources said on Wednesday.
There is consensus among the top leadership of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party on not apologising to the judiciary or writing a letter to Swiss authorities to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Mr. Zardari, sources in the party and its legal team told PTI.
“Neither will Prime Minister Gilani apologise nor will he assure the Supreme Court about writing a letter to the Swiss authorities when he appears in court on Thursday in the contempt of court proceedings,” said a close aide to the President.
“We believe that the court would be pacified by the appearance of the Prime Minister. I think the Prime Minister’s gesture will assuage the feelings of people concerned,” said the aide.
However, Mr. Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who will present the case in the court on Thursday, maintained that though the Prime Minister was not guilty of contempt of court, he should bow to pressure and ask Switzerland to reopen graft cases.
Mr. Ahsan said the President Zardari enjoys full immunity from criminal cases in Pakistan and abroad and the constitutional immunity had been notified. So the Prime Minister cannot be held guilty of contempt.
On Monday, the apex court had issued a contempt notice against the Prime Minister on the ground that he failed to act on its directive to reopen graft cases against Mr. Zardari and others issued over two years ago. The court also asked him to appear in person on Thursday.
A lawyer who is part of the PPP’s legal team, said the Prime Minister is expected to cite constitutional provisions for his inability to write the letter to Swiss authorities.
Since December 2009, the apex court has been pressuring the PPP-led government to reopen the graft cases after striking down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that was issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
The government has refused to act on the order, saying the President enjoys immunity under the Constitution.
Mr. Gilani subsequently received the backing of parliament when it passed a pro-democracy resolution. In his speech in the National Assembly, he urged the judiciary and military to protect democracy despite differences with his government. The judiciary and military, he said, could not “pack up” or derail the democratic system.
The government’s confrontation with the judiciary over reviving the corruption cases against Mr. Zardari has reached a head at a time when the PPP is also engaged in a face-off with the powerful military over an alleged memo that had sought US help to prevent a feared coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May last year. A Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission is conducting a probe into the memo scandal.