Dawn News

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf waves upon his arrival at the Supreme Court in Islamabad on September 18, 2012. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the government until Sept 25 to draft the letter to Swiss authorities to reopen a graft case against President Asif Ali Zardari and adjourned the hearing in the show-cause notice for contempt of court against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to the said date, DawnNews reported. A five-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, heard the show-cause notice for contempt of court against Prime Minister Ashraf over the NRO implementation case.

Earlier, a Supreme Court bench had issued a show-cause notice to Prime Minister Ashraf for not implementing its orders in the NRO case of writing the letter to reopen a graft case worth $60 million against President Zardari.

10: 18: The prime minister departed from the Supreme Court's premises after the completion of the hearing.

10: 14: The court granted the prime minister exemption from appearing for the upcoming hearing.

10: 11: The bench ruled that the government must draft the letter by Sept 25 and adjourned the hearing to the said date.

10:10: Justice Khosa appreciated the prime minister's efforts for the resolution of the longstanding issue.

10: 07: The court moreover gave the government until Sept 25 to draft the letter.

10:01: Time for consultations is over, the bench said, adding that now the government should focus on writing the letter.

10:00: The court gave a deadline of two days to compose the letter's draft, whereas, the prime minister had requested the court for a month's time for consultations.  Justice Khosa told the prime minister to authorise the law minister to draft the letter in a matter of two to three days "so that this chapter can be closed as soon as possible".

09: 56: Justice Khosa directed that the matter of the letter be resolved and it should be sent to Swiss authorities by Oct 2.

09: 53: Justice Khosa said the court could resume the hearing day after tomorrow which would give the prime minister the time to delegate authority to the law minister who would draft the letter. Upon which, the prime minister said that the hearing could be held at the end of the month. At that, the law minister said he required time to draft the letter upon which Justice Khosa remarked that the prime minister had given Naek an order with which he had to comply.

09: 51: Justice Khosa instructed the prime minister to write the letter to Swiss authorities following four steps: The prime minister would authorise someone in writing to write the letter, the content of the letter should satisfy the court, subsequently the letter is sent and the court be informed as to who would be delivering it and lastly the court is informed once the letter is sent.

09: 49: Justice Khosa further remarked that the court had reviewed the government's reservations over the issue and that the issue of Article 248 was internal.

09: 44: The prime minister concluded his arguments in the court.

09: 42: The prime minister requested the court to exempt him from court appearances.

09: 40: Prime Minister Ashraf said the general elections were not far off and requested the court to issue a ruling which would be in the greater national interest and would also resolve the matter. He moreover informed the court that he had delegated the authorities over the matter to the federal law minister.

09: 39: The prime minister said he was experiencing pressure from different quarters and questions were being asked, adding that, the matter should be resolved. Prime Minister Ashraf moreover said that the Russian president was coming to Pakistan and that President Zardari was also going to attend meetings at the United Nations. He added that as prime minister, he was also the party's secretary-general, and therefore wanted a resolution which would help retain the dignity of both the Supreme Court as well as the office of the president.

09: 37: The prime minister said he had reviewed the matter and its complications from several angels after which the decision to recall Qayyum's letter was taken. He added that the matter was not simply about the person of Asif Ali Zardari but of the office of the president. He said he hoped that the court would also keep the matter in mind. The prime minister further said that if the court cooperated, the matter could be resolved amicably.

09: 35: During the hearing, the prime minister told the court that he had asked the federal law minister to withdraw the letter sent to Swiss authorities by former attorney general Malik Qayyum for the closure of the graft case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

09: 15: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf arrived in the courtroom along with his counsel Wasim Sajjad for the hearing.

09: 12: Prime Minister Ashraf was also seen busy in consultation with Law Minister Farooq H Naek in the courtroom. Naek had accompanied the prime minister on his arrival at the court's premises.

09:01: Earlier today, the prime minister had arrived at the the Supreme Court's premises for the case's hearing.

09:00: The prime minister was expected to apprise the court of the government's decision over the issue of writing a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening the graft case against President Zardari, sources told DawnNews.

08: 56: Sources moreover said that the government had devised a middleway to write a letter to Swiss authorities.

08: 45: Leaders from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and its coalition allies had arrived earlier at the court. The leaders present at the court included Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML - Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement's (MQM) Farooq Sattar, PPP's Firdous Ashiq Awan and Awami National Party's Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour. The leaders stressed upon finding a middle-ground on the issue of the letter.

08:30: A large number of media and security persons were present at the Supreme Court premises. Strict security measure were witnessed at court room number four and entry into the area was prohibited hours before the prime minister's arrival.

08:25: Islamabad's red zone area was sealed for the public due to security concerns.

Coalition consultations, PPP's stance

Earlier on Monday, the ruling PPP and it coalition allies had decided in a meeting chaired by President Zardari that Prime Minister Ashraf would appear before the court for the hearing and would apprise the bench of his government’s stance on the issue of the letter.

Prime Minister Ashraf and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was sent packing by the apex court in the same case, also attended the meeting.

The leaders of coalition parties had reiterated their support for the prime minister and decided to accompany him to the court.

However, legal experts said the government had done nothing significant to implement the court’s orders and, if anything had been done, the government had not made it public.

It was also learnt that the government was sticking to its stance that it could not write the letter as it believed that a sitting president could not be tried.

Letter to Swiss authorities

On Aug 8, the Supreme Court had issued the show-cause notice for contempt of court to Prime Minister Ashraf over his failure to implement its directive of writing a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft case against President Zardari.

The show-cause notice was heard on Aug 27, during which the Supreme Court had put off the proceedings until Sept 18.

Earlier on June 27, the bench had given the new prime minister two weeks to indicate whether he would ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against President Zardari.

The court had on June 19 dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister after convicting him of contempt in April for refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar case against the president.

Raja Pervez Ashraf was later elected as the new prime minister.

The allegations against President Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.

The Swiss shelved the case in 2008 when Zardari became president and the government had been insisting that the president has full immunity.

But in 2009 the Supreme Court overturned the NRO, a political amnesty that had frozen investigations into the president and other politicians, ordering that the case be reopened.


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