Anita Joshua

ISLAMABAD: Even as Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani sought to allay fears of a possible face-off between the government and the judiciary over reopening graft cases in Swiss courts against President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leadership is expected to be out in strength in the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning when a five-member bench is scheduled to take up a government petition challenging the striking down of the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

On Saturday, Mr. Gilani telephoned Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to “assure him that the government has all the respect for the judiciary''. Also, Mr. Gilani has urged the People's Lawyers Forum to drop its plans to assemble outside the Apex Court during the hearings.

“Only a few lawyers and Ministers will go with the Law Minister [Babar Awan] to the Supreme Court to explain the government's point of view.

Any clash between institutions will not benefit anyone,'' Mr. Gilani was reported as saying in Lahore; echoing a widely-held apprehension of the implications of a possible stand-off between the executive and the judiciary on Pakistan's bid to return to democracy.

Mr. Awan had been summoned by the Court earlier this month to explain why the government had not yet written to the Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases against the President as per a December 2009 judgment.

Though he had sounded combative at first, Mr. Awan this past weekend said there would be no confrontation with the judiciary as the PPP government believed in the supremacy of democracy.