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The Supreme Court of Pakistan.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has constituted a five-member larger bench to hear the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) case, DawnNews reported.

The apex court will resume proceedings of the case on July 12 — the deadline for Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to indicate whether he would ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against the president.

The five member bench will be headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, and comprise of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ather Saeed.

During the last hearing of the case on June 27, a three-member bench headed by Justice Nasir ul Mulk had asked PM Ashraf to submit his reply on the issue of corresponding with the Swiss authorities in two weeks time.

“The new prime minister was elected last week and we trust that he will honour the direction given by this court,” Mulk had said. “In the meantime we direct the attorney general to obtain instructions from the prime minister and inform the court… on the next date of the hearing on July 12,” he said.

The move indicated that the judiciary may be unwilling to end a showdown with the government, raising chances of elections before February 2013, when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year mandate.

The Supreme Court dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister on June 19, after convicting him of contempt in April for refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The government insists the president has full immunity in court.

The allegations against 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 cases in 2008 when Zardari became president.

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