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Pakistan gov't pursuing contempt law

Aug. 6, 2012 at 12:38 AM   |   Comments

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The Pakistani government will seek a review of a Supreme Court ruling striking down a new law relating to contempt of court, a presidential spokesman said.

The Dawn newspaper reported Monday Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, confirmed the Zardari government has decided in principle to file a review petition against the high court decision nullifying the new contempt of court law passed by Parliament last month.

The high court, which has been pressing the government led by new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to write to Swiss authorities to reopen alleged graft cases against Zardari, last week ruled the new law exempting top government officials from contempt of court charges was unconstitutional.

Ashraf became prime minister last month after his predecessor, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, had to leave office after being convicted of contempt for failing to write to the Swiss authorities. The government has maintained the cases cannot be reopened as Zardari enjoys presidential immunity.

Ashraf, who has until Wednesday to obey the court order, could face a similar confrontation with the court if his government does not write the letter.

Babar said the government would also contest the apex court's deadline to Ashraf, Dawn said.

"I cannot give you the exact date, but it will be done as soon as possible," Dawn quoted Babar as saying.

Babar told the newspaper the decision to appeal the court decision was taken after consultation with allied parties and legal experts.

"Admissibility of a review petition does not automatically disqualify the original decision that remains in place till the time the court decides otherwise," a high court lawyer told Dawn.

Another lawyer said the government's effort is a time-buying one, adding review petitions historically have not had much success.

The cases against Zardari and his slain wife Benazir Bhutto date back several years and relate to millions of dollars in alleged kickbacks from Swiss firms. The case was later closed by Swiss judicial authorities.

The high court has been pressing the government to reopen the cases since 2009 after ruling against the constitutionality of a graft amnesty granted by former president Pervez Musharraf.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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