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Meet to discuss whether PM needs to appear in court.

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari has called a meeting of Pakistan's ruling coalition parties on Sunday to decide whether the prime minister should appear before the Supreme Court in a contempt of court case, according to officials and party sources.

Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf has been summoned by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court to appear before it in person on Monday to explain why he may not be charged with committing contempt of court.

The bench had issued the show-cause notice and the summons to the prime minister last month over his failure to implement a court order to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen a money laundering case against Zardari.

The president, who is also co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), chaired Friday night a meeting of the PPP's core committee which according to sources discussed likely fallout if the prime minister did not appear before the court.

Prime Minister Ashraf conferred Saturday with Law Minister Farooq H Naek about legal options vis a vis contempt proceedings, officials said.

It was agreed that any decision regarding the issue of appearance before the Supreme Court would be taken -- keeping in view the national interest as the government does not want any confrontation with the judiciary, the state-run Radio Pakistan said.

Attorney General Irfan Qadir told reporters here Friday that constitutionally the prime minister is neither answerable to the Supreme Court nor bound to appear before it.

The PPP core committee meeting on Friday was also attended by former prime minister Yosuf Raza Gilani, who refused to write the Swiss letter saying it would be tantamount to violating the country's constitution which gives complete immunity to head of state.

Gilan was convicted on the charge of contempt on April 26 by the Supreme Court over his defiance. Later on June 19 the court disqualified him and he quit the top office after heading the PPP-led coalition government for about four and a half years.

Earlier this month Gilani, who had himself appeared thrice before the Supreme Court, publicly advised his successor not to follow the court order to appear in person. He asserted that if Ashraf was treated like he was by the court, the PPP would not take it lying down.

The tussle between the government and the judiciary started after the Supreme Court in December 2009 struck down a National Reconciliation Ordinance or amnesty given by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to politicians accused of corruption.

In the verdict, the court had ordered reopening of all cases closed under the ordinance, directing the government to also write to Swiss authorities for reopening the money laundering case.

Amid an apparent drift toward a clash between the two state institutions, the government has often blamed the Supreme Court for going beyond its constitutional powers, while judges insist the judiciary is there to uphold the constitution and rule of law in the country.

Pakistan's popular Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry once again reiterated the judiciary's role on Saturday in a speech, but without directly referring to the executive-judiciary tussle.

Justice Chaudhry, who was addressing a law conference in Sukkur in Sindh province, said the judiciary will uphold the high principles of rule of law and supremacy of the constitution.

The chief justice said judiciary is the third pillar of the State in a constitutional and democratic dispensation and it is its basic obligation to define and interpret the law and the constitution.

The constitution guarantees fundamental rights to citizens and assigns the task of their enforcement to the judiciary, the chief justice said adding that rule of lawEoACAU peace and tranquillity in a society encourages tradeEoACAU business and commercial activitiesEoACAU attracting local and foreign investment.

The law conference was arranged by the Sindh High Court Bar Association with the collaboration of Pakistan Law Commission.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Aug 25, 2012
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