Pak lawyers` bodies concerned over contempt charges against PM

Law Minister said that a clash between institutions was not in anybody`s interest and should be avoided at all costs.

Islamabad: Pakistani officials and lawyers` associations on Wednesday expressed concern at the Supreme Court`s decision to charge the prime minister with contempt for not reviving graft cases against the president, saying a clash between state institutions should be avoided.

Law Minister Farooq H Naek said that a clash between institutions was not in anybody`s interest and should be avoided at all costs. He made the remarks during a meeting with Punjab Governor Latif Khosa in the capital.

Naek spoke after the apex court issued a notice to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on a charge of contempt of court and summoned him to personally appear on August 27 to explain why action should not be taken against him for failing to act on orders to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland.

Talking to reporters at the Supreme Court complex, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said he had not expected court to summon the premier.

Referring to the immunity enjoyed by the President, he said: "Nobody needs to claim any immunity, immunity is given by the Constitution itself."

Qadir, the government`s top law officer, said he still believed some way can be found to end the standoff between the government and the judiciary.

He too said there should not be a clash between state institutions.

"We will try and see that there is no confrontation between the institutions," he said.

"I was not expecting that the Prime Minister would be called but I expect that the court will exercise restraint because I have been saying for long that all institutions should exercise restraint," Qadir said in response to questions from journalists.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Mohammad Yasin Azad told a news conference in Quetta city that the standoff between state institutions had created a crisis-like situation.

"Disqualifying yet another Prime Minister is not in the interest of Pakistan. The judiciary must consider other options," he said.

National issues were being ignored by the apex court and political parties, Azad said.
In view of the prevailing crisis, it will be prudent to review other options to reach an amicable solution, he added.

Azad stressed the need to dispose of cases of poor litigants and said people had started questioning the dignity of the judiciary.

Though the judiciary is empowered to strike down any law that violates the Constitution, the parliament too is supreme and has the right to pass any law that gains the unanimous support of the House, he said.

Leading rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir criticised the apex court`s decision, saying the judges had acted in haste against Prime Minister Ashraf.

"We want to see a strong judiciary but we are not in favour of absolute power being exercised by any institution," she told reporters.

A court will lose the confidence of the people when it issues orders on a political basis instead of keeping in view the law, she said.

"Those sitting in the courts are actually undermining the image of the judiciary through their conduct," Jahangir said.



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