Ahead of the next hearing of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case by the Supreme Court next week, the government hopes to put in place a contempt law that will provide immunity to senior government functionaries for their executive actions and save Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf from meeting the same fate as his predecessor.

Since the draft legislation — cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday — requires only a simple majority for it to be passed by both Houses of Parliament, the government is hoping to have it in place before the next hearing of the NRO case on July 12. Parliament has been convened for the purpose amid fears that the bill may open another avenue for confrontation between the executive and the judiciary.

At the last hearing of the case — soon after he took office — Mr. Ashraf was asked by the Supreme Court whether his government intends to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari or would it follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Mr. Ashraf’s predecessor Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had been ousted by the Supreme Court on June 19 with retrospective effect from April 26 for contempt of court. Contempt proceedings had been initiated against Mr. Gilani for repeatedly refusing to write to the Swiss authorities after the Supreme Court annulled the NRO — an amnesty on corruption cases granted by the Musharraf dispensation to hundreds of politicians, military personnel and bureaucrats.

The government is essentially taking a leaf out of the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s book of 1997 vintage when he had a similar run-in with the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

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