To present his views in the Memogate case on January 9

The Pakistani judicial commission investigating the Memogate scandal issued on Wednesday a notice to President Asif Ali Zardari to present his views on the issue at the next hearing on January 9.

Mr. Zardari is not required to appear in person before the panel and could submit his views through a counsel, TV news channels quoted officials as saying.

At its first meeting held on January 2, the Supreme Court-appointed Commission had directed officials to send notices to all respondents and petitioners in the apex court.

The respondents include Mr. Zardari, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, former envoy to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, and Mansoor Ijaz, the Pakistani-American businessman who made public the alleged memo that sought American help to stave off a military coup in Pakistan.

The Commission comprising the Chief Justices of the High Courts of Balochistan, Sindh and Islamabad is scheduled to hold its next meeting on January 9.

It has directed Mr. Haqqani to appear before it on that day.

The Commission has also directed government officials to obtain records of all BlackBerry communications between Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Ijaz, who created a storm in Pakistan's diplomatic and political circles by making the memo public.

The apex court last week formed the three-judge Commission to probe the issue within four weeks, adding to the pressure on the civilian government over the Memogate scandal.

Contempt notice

The Supreme Court also issued notices to four senior leaders of the ruling PPP, including two Ministers, to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for allegedly making remarks in the case.

A two-judge bench issued the notices to Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah and former Ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira and Babar Awan in connection with the remarks they had made at a news conference on December 1.

After the apex court issued an interim order for a probe into the memo issue, the four PPP leaders addressed a news conference at which they questioned and criticised the ruling.

Mr. Babar Awan was particularly critical of the verdict.

The apex court subsequently sought an explanation from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who said in a statement submitted in court that his government had not shown any disrespect to the judiciary.

The apex court was not satisfied with this explanation and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry asked the two-judge bench to look into the matter.

The bench heard arguments by Attorney-General Anwar-ul-Haq, who again said the PPP leaders had not intended to malign the judiciary.

The bench, however, contended that the transcript of the December 1 news conference showed that the PPP leaders had made several remarks that were insulting to the judiciary.

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