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Coalition parties send defiant message to judiciary

August 04, 2012


The Co-Chairman PPP, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf chair a meeting of heads of allied parties at the presidency in Islamabad on Friday. – INP Photo

ISLAMABAD: A meeting of parties in the PPP-led coalition government held in the presidency on Friday night after the Supreme Court struck down the recently promulgated contempt law gave a strong message to the judiciary that they would continue to uphold the supremacy of parliament and face emerging challenges with ‘unity, force and conviction’.

As the government-judiciary tussle intensified, the ruling coalition stuck to its stance that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf would not write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen money-laundering cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The President’s spokesman, Farhatulah Babar, said: “In the context of the present situation, the meeting decided that there is even greater need to remain united and firm. It resolved to remain united and firm and face the emerging challenges with unity, force and conviction.

“The current situation was discussed and the meeting expressed its resolve that the right of the parliament to legislate would be upheld and this right would not be allowed to be compromised no matter what the odds and the cost would be.”

According to inside sources, the meeting decided that during the hearing of NRO implementation case on Aug 8, the prime minister will tell the court that President Zardari enjoys immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution. It also decided that the government would sacrifice another prime minister but he would not write the letter.

The sources said the leaders of allied parties were of the opinion that the government should go for an appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision and also present a new contempt bill in parliament.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who was reluctant to give details about the meeting, said the government could file an appeal and present a new bill in parliament.

“The president called the PPP’s legal team headed by Law Minister Farooq H. Naek, which will give its opinion about the government’s future line of action,” he said.

But talking to Dawn, Farhatulah Babar ruled out the possibility of tabling another contempt bill in parliament and getting it passed before the NRO case hearing on Aug 8.

He quoted the president as saying: “The power to legislate under the Constitution belongs to elected representatives alone.”

President Zardari had on July 12 signed the Contempt of Court Bill, 2012, into law.

The move brought the judiciary and the government head on. The law had exempted the prime minister and parliamentarians from contempt of court proceedings.

The meeting decided that no caretaker set-up would be formed even if Prime Minister Ashraf was also disqualified by the Supreme Court.

POWER SUPPLY: Mr Babar said the meeting also reviewed the current electricity situation in the country. The prime minister said the situation was steadily improving and expressed the hope that the crisis would soon be overcome.

President Zardari directed that the cabinet’s decision about zero duty on import of solar panels should be implemented without delay. It would boost the growth of solar power and reduce pressure on the power sector, he said.

The president said that small dams being built in various parts of the country should be completed on a priority basis. According to Mr Babar, progress of work on Munda dam, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was reviewed and the president directed that difficulties in the way of its implementation should be overcome on an urgent basis.

The meeting was attended by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Haji Mohammad Adeel, Afrasiab Khattak, Dr Farooq Sattar, Babar Khan Ghouri, Abbas Khan Afridi, Munir Khan Orakzai and Hameedullah Jan Afridi.