“Confused” and “surprised” by the apex court ultimatum to him to approach Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against the President, Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said he would act according to the Constitution.
Mr. Gilani, who has been asked by the apex court to write to Swiss authorities by March 21, said there were two cases before the Supreme Court which the media had mixed up, and in one of these he did not even have a lawyer.
He questioned whether the court’s order to approach Swiss authorities on reopening graft cases against Asif Ali Zardari without consulting his legal aides meant he should act on the court’s advice.
“There are two cases that the media has mixed up. One is the case of contempt against me, for which my lawyer is Aitzaz Ahsan. There has been no decision in this case,” the premier said during an interaction with reporters on Sunday afternoon.
“There is another case where I have no lawyer. Something like this has been said (by the court in a matter) where I have no lawyer or representation or awareness... Fine, I will not take anyone’s advice but I will act according to the Constitution,” he said.
Mr. Gilani was responding to questions about the apex court’s March 8 order directing him to write to Swiss authorities on reviving the cases against President Zardari.
Significantly, the court had said that he should act without waiting to consult his legal advisors.
The Supreme Court has fixed March 21 as the deadline for Mr. Gilani to write the letter to Swiss authorities.
It issued the directive while hearing a case regarding the implementation of an order striking down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that benefited Mr. Zardari and over 8,000 others.
The apex court is separately hearing a contempt case against Mr. Gilani for failing to act on its repeated orders to revive the cases against Mr. Zardari.
The court has observed that the contempt proceedings should not affect the implementation of its judgment on the graft amnesty.
The apex court will also resume the hearing in contempt proceedings against Mr. Gilani on March 21.
The premier was indicted for contempt for failing to reopen the cases against Mr. Zardari.
During an interaction with journalists in Islamabad last night, Mr. Gilani had said he would make a decision on the Supreme Court’s order after consulting his lawyer.
The premier had said he was “confused” and “surprised” by the apex court’s order.
He made it clear that he did not think he had committed contempt by not acting on the court’s earlier orders to revive the cases against Mr. Zardari.
“I follow rules, I follow the Constitution and I don’t feel that I have committed any contempt,” he said.
The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to reopen the cases in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance that was issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys complete immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and abroad.
“I am confused as it is not clear which case the Supreme Court wants me to address in the letter (to Swiss authorities),” Mr. Gilani said last night.
In a related development, a copy of the apex court’s order for Mr. Gilani to approach the Swiss authorities by March 21 was on Saturday delivered to Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq.
The order stated that despite the premier’s appearance in court in the contempt proceedings, he was yet to commit to implementing the court’s judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance.