Islamabad: He could have been on his way out but Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was on Monday given a three-week reprieve by the Supreme Court that adjourned the contempt case against him till September 18, giving him more time to write to Swiss authorities on reopening corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Ashraf, who stepped into the shoes of Yousuf Raza Gilani who was disqualified for contempt when he refused to accept the court`s orders, requested that he be given four to six weeks to write the letter to Swiss authorities.
"I need time to understand the matter… as it involves certain legal and constitutional points," Ashraf, 61, told the court. He also pleaded that the show-cause notice be withdrawn.
"I need enough time from the court to seek the assistance of constitutional and legal experts," Dawn quoted him as saying.
A five-judge special bench comprising Justices Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Ejaz Afzal Khan, Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Gulzar Ahmed and Muhammad Ather Saeed heard the case.
Justice Asif Khosa said Ashraf did not have to write the letter himself. He could nominate someone else to write it.
The court appreciated the Prime Minister`s appearance and said he was appearing as the Premier and not as an accused as no charges had been framed against him, reported Online news agency.
The court was irked by the Prime Minister`s repeated requests seeking more time to hold deliberations with his legal aides over the issue.
During the Monday hearing, the apex court initially gave time till September 12 while Ashraf sought time till September 16 as he had professional commitments. The Prime Minister said he would be in China till September 14 and therefore more time should be granted, reported Geo News.
The Supreme Court ordered Ashraf to appear in the court on September 18 and adjourned the hearing.
The apex court had issued the notice on August 08.
The order said it was unfortunate that the Prime Minister had failed to implement the court`s directives.
The court had on July 25 given Ashraf time till August 08 to write to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against Zardari.
Accused of graft, Zardari was granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return home from exile, and primarily that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Zardari and Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about USD 12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.
The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.
The apex court in January ordered Gilani to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.
Gilani was convicted on April 26 of contempt of court, and was disqualified as prime minister as well as Parliament member on June 19.