ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan People’s Party put all speculations to rest by announcing on late Sunday night that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf would appear before the Supreme Court on Monday morning to respond to a contempt notice.
The announcement was made in a handout issued by presidential spokesman Farhatullah Khan Babar after a 90-minute meeting of coalition partners at the Presidency.
The meeting was convened to finalise the ruling coalition’s strategy for the hearing of the NRO judgment implementation case in the Supreme Court, focussing on the issue of the prime minister’s appearance to respond to a show-cause notice.
“After an in-depth discussion on points raised by the law minister and weighing available options, the meeting decided that in line with the coalition government’s policy of showing respect to the majesty of law the prime minister would appear before the Supreme Court on Monday,” Mr Babar said.
According to him, leaders of the parties in the coalition will accompany the prime minister to the courtroom “as a demonstration of solidarity”.
The spokesman said the coalition partners had resolved to remain united in coping with the challenges confronting the government and the prime minister.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had on Aug 8 issued the show-cause notice to the prime minister for not implementing its order of writing a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Mr Ashraf was asked to appear before the bench on Monday to respond to the notice, similar to the one issued to former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani before his conviction and subsequent disqualification two months ago.
The PPP had earlier discussed the issue in detail in a meeting of its senior members at the Presidency on Friday night. According to sources, most leaders of the party, including Mr Gilani, had endorsed the contention of Attorney General Irfan Qadir that under the Constitution the prime minister was not answerable to any court for actions taken by him in performing his official duty.
The PPP members were of the view that since there had been no change in the party’s stance on the issue of writing the letter there would be no use of putting the prime minister in the dock.
The sources said the president was of the opinion that since the prime minister’s non-appearance would be considered in some circles as an open defiance of the court’s orders, the coalition partners should also be consulted before taking such a major step.
The PML-Q and the MQM had declared even before going to the meeting that they would suggest to the PPP not to go for a confrontation with the judiciary and that they would advise the prime minister to appear before the court.
On Sunday, Law Minister Farooq Naek gave a comprehensive briefing to the coalition partners on the issues involved in court cases and the options available to tackle them. Sources said the law minister particularly briefed the meeting on the possible scenarios if the prime minister decided to stay away from the proceedings.
The official handout is silent as to what would be the stance of the prime minister in the Supreme Court.
However, according to one of the participants of the meeting, there has been no change in the stand of the PPP and the prime minister is expected to request the court to defer the contempt proceedings till a decision on the government’s petition seeking review of the court’s July 12 order which had directed him to comply with its judgment in the NRO implementation case.
The meeting was presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and attended by Prime Minster Ashraf, former prime minister Gilani, Awami National Party’s president Asfandyar Wali Khan and Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Raja Basharat Ahmad of the PML-Q, Dr Farooq Sattar and Babar Ghauri of the MQM, Munir Aurakzai, Hameedullah Jan Afridi and Senator Rashid Ahmad from Fata, Senator Kulsoom Parveen of the BNP-Awami and Khuda Bux Rajar of the PML-F, federal Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Ahmad Shah, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Law Minister Naek and the president’s spokesman.
The president and the prime minister thanked the coalition partners for their continued support in the face of all challenges and said their support was most valuable for political stability in the country.