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PPP sticks to stand on Swiss letter

September 17, 2012


ISLAMABAD: The ruling PPP and it coalition allies have decided that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will appear before the Supreme Court in the NRO implementation case on Tuesday to apprise it of his government’s stance on the issue of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The decision was taken at a meeting of coalition partners jointly chaired by President Zardari and Prime Minister Ashraf on Monday. 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 reiterated their support for the prime minister and decided to accompany him to the court.

“Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will appear before the Supreme Court tomorrow (Tuesday) and the coalition partners decided to accompany him to the apex court as a mark of solidarity,” president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. “The coalition partners reiterated their full support for the government.”

Prime Minister Ashraf, who assumed the charge of his office in June, first appeared before the apex court on August 27 and assured it that he would take “genuine and serious” steps to resolve the NRO implementation issue.

But, according to legal experts, the government has so far done nothing significant to implement the court’s orders and, if anything has been done, it has not made it public.

It is learnt that the government will stick to its stance that it cannot write the letter because it believes that a sitting president cannot be tried. Therefore, the prime minister may seek some more time or request the court to refer the matter to the federal cabinet. He may also request the court to send the letter on its own.

Interestingly, unlike the previous hearings of the NRO implementation case, the government this time does not appear to be worried about the fate of the second prime minister belonging to the PPP.

Private TV channels also remained quiet and did not hold special programmes on Monday as they had done when Mr Gilani was to appear before the court.

Prime Minister Raja Ashraf remained busy throughout day, holding consultations with leaders of his party and coalition partners.

Law Minister Farooq H. Naek called on the prime minister and is reported to have discussed legal aspects of the case. Deputy Prime Minister and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Q Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met the prime minister separately.

Tuesday may be a crucial day for Mr Ashraf because like his predecessor he may also be sent home by the Supreme Court for not abiding by its orders in the NRO implementation case.

In its reply submitted to the apex court on July 24, the government had said the prime minister could not write the letter to reopen money-laundering cases against President Zardari.

The coalition partners’ meeting was called by President Zardari to decide whether the prime minister should appear before the court and what stance he should take in connection with the court’s directives to write the letter.

The meeting was attended by, among others, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Mushahid Hussain, Basharat Raja, Asfandyar Wali Khan, Afrasiab Khattak, Dr Farooq Sattar, Babar Khan Ghouri, Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri, Hameedullah Jan Afridi, Munir Khan Orakzai and Abbas Khan Afridi.

Farhatullah Babar said the current situation with special focus on energy crisis, floods, law and order and matters concerning the coalition partners were also discussed.

The prime minister briefed the meeting on the power crisis and progress on various measures taken to overcome it. The meeting was informed that a number of measures taken by the government had resulted in steady improvement in the power situation. With the rising water levels in reservoirs after recent rains, the power generation will further improve. The president called for vigorous steps to resolve the power issue.

The meeting was updated on the flood situation in various parts of the country and steps taken for relief and rehabilitation of the affected people.

Mr Babar said the meeting condemned the anti-Islam film and termed it an act of grave provocation.