Pak SC issues contempt notice to Gilani

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani’s continuance in office appeared to be in doubt after the Supreme Court on Monday summoned him to appear in person on Thursday next on contempt charges for failing to reopen graft cases against the President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari.

The apex court’s order came hours before the Pakistan National Assembly adopted a pro-democracy resolution moved by ruling PPP-led coalition, which could act as a cosmetic booster for the embattled civilian government which is engaged in a tussle with both the powerful Army and the influential judiciary.

While issuing the contempt notice, the court asked the 59-year-old Mr Gilani, to appear before it on January 19 to explain why proceedings should not be initiated against him for deliberately disregarding the court’s order.

The court order was issued by a seven-judge bench led by Mr Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk when it took up the case related to its orders for reopening high-profile graft cases against Zardari and over 8,000 others.

Immediately after the court’s order, Mr Gilani held a meeting with Mr Zardari and later met leaders of the ruling PPP-led coalition partners to take stock of the situation arising out of the court’s direction. Mr Zardari was also present at the meeting of alliance partners.

There were unconfirmed reports that Mr Gilani had offered to resign during the meeting, saying that he wanted to take the step if this would strengthen the government and Parliament.

Later speaking at the Parliament, Mr Gilani said the adoption of the resolution "unanimously shows that Parliament is supreme, sovereign and democracy is stable". Mr Gilani also said that he will appear before the Supreme Court on January 19 to face contempt of court notice.

Meanwhile on the issue of apex court’s notice, PPP leader Mr Faratullah Babar said, "We respect the court and its verdict."

He added that an appropriate response would be formulated after consulting legal experts.

At the meeting, Pakistan’s ruling coalition on Monday reposed full confidence in Mr Gilani, who will appear in the Supreme Court. Mr Gilani was advised to appear before the apex court to present the views of the ruling alliance.

The meeting was attended by alliance partners, PML-Q, Awami National Party and MQM.

Leaders of the coalition parties said they would accompany the Premier for his appearance in court, the sources said. Mr Zardari too advised Mr Gilani to appear before the apex court when the two leaders held a separate meeting earlier in the day. Mr Zardari joined Mr Gilani’s meeting with leaders of the coalition parties and discussed the current political situation and said there was "no clash between the institutions".

He said the PPP always gave respect and honour to all state institutions, especially the judiciary.

While addressing the meeting, Mr Gilani said his government has "respect and honour for all institutions, including the Supreme Court".

The government "did not want any confrontation with any institution, including the courts", he said.

Mr Gilani said that in the past, Prime Ministers were imposed on Parliament but now it has become independent enough to elect its own leader of the House.

The democratic system has "been strengthening its roots and proving that it is strong enough", he said.

Under the democratic system, the people’s problems are being resolved and the government has adopted a policy of reconciliation and taking along all political forces on all issues related to security or politics, Mr Gilani said.

The PPP respected institutions and believed in the independence of judiciary, he said.

The government "believes in resolving problems through negotiations and reconciliation", he added.

The coalition partners assured the Prime Minister of "their full support and strength" in dealing with all matters, especially the contempt notice issued to him by the Supreme Court.

Emerging from the meeting, the Awami National Party chief, Mr Asfandyar Wali Khan dismissed talk of Mr Gilani resigning and asserted that the Premier was ready to face the apex court.

"The Prime Minister himself said he will appear (before the Supreme Court).

"Why should we seek his resignation? We have confidence in him," Mr Khan said.

The Law Minister, Mr Maula Bux Chandio told reporters that all PPP lawmakers and coalition party leaders will accompany the Premier to the apex court.

The government, he said, will complete its term and all conspiracies against it will fail.

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