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Allies favour PM’s appearance in court

August 26, 2012

President Asif Ali Zardari chairs a meeting at the Presidency. – File Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Two key allies of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have opposed a hawkish, and increasingly popular, view prevailing in the ruling party that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf should not appear before the Supreme Court on Monday to face contempt charges.

Background interviews with leaders of the coalition partners revealed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are strongly against the reported plan of the prime minister to abstain from the court proceedings whereas the Awami National Party (ANP) is yet to come out with a clear stance.

Talking to Dawn, leaders of the PML-Q and MQM said they would advise the PPP during their meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari scheduled on Sunday not to go for a confrontation with the judiciary.

The President’s spokesman, Farhatullah Khan Babar, confirmed that he had convened a meeting of the coalition partners to discuss the situation.

Gilani backs AG

According to sources in the PPP, a majority of senior party members, including former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, during a meeting at the Presidency on Friday night endorsed the viewpoint of Attorney General Irfan Qadir that under the Constitution the prime minister was not answerable to any court for his official acts.

The PPP members were of the view that since there had been no change in the party’s stance about writing a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening a money laundering case against President Zardari in line with the Supreme Court’s decision, there would be no use of putting the prime minister in the dock.

A PPP leader said that the party was also considering an option to challenge the court’s directives of summoning the prime minister.

The sources said the president was of the opinion that since the prime minister’s absence 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 step.

After the meeting, PPP leaders claimed that the party had worked out its strategy, but said that a final decision about the prime minister’s appearance before the Supreme Court would be taken after consultation with coalition partners.

The MQM’s spokesman, Wasay Jalil, said the party’s chief Altaf Hussain had already declared that the country could not afford confrontation between institutions and it believed that the courts must be respected.

In reply to a question, he said the prime minister must appear before the apex court and that the MQM would give this advice to the president. He said MQM’s parliamentary leader in National Assembly Dr Farooq Sattar and Senator Babar Ghauri would represent the party in the meeting.

Similar views were expressed by PML-Q’s information secretary Kamil Ali Agha who said that the prime minister had no choice but to obey the court’s directives and appear before it.

He said Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had already advised the prime minister that he should appear before the SC.

However, ANP’s Zahid Khan refused to speak on the issue, saying his party had so far not held internal discussion on the matter and would be able to declare its stance on Sunday. He said ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and Senator Afrasiab Khattak would attend the meeting at the Presidency.

He, however, made it clear that the PPP should not take the ANP for granted by believing that “we will be with them through thick and thin”.