Islamabad: In an unprecedented move, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday initiated contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for failing to carry out the court`s order to open a corruption probe against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The apex court had further summoned the PM on January 19 to explain why he has not complied with the order.
The Supreme Court`s ruling against Gilani means he could be prosecuted, leading to his dismissal.
A seven-member Supreme Court bench today resumed hearing on the implementation of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), under which the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had withdrawn cases against Zardari.
"This is not a small, usual thing," Pakistani Law Minister Moula Bakhsh Chandio told reporters outside the Supreme Court. "This is a Supreme Court order on which we will consult our committee of experts. We will take the necessary steps in light of the Constitution and the law."
In the meantime, NAB chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bukhari has offered an unconditional apology to the apex court for failing to implement orders.
According to Geo News, NAB counsel, Shaiq Usmani, appeared on behalf of Bukhari and submitted the apology.
“We have decided to implement the NRO order...was unaware of court`s procedures”, it said.
Last week, the court threatened to dismiss Gilani unless he ordered the investigation into the graft case dating back to the early 1990s.
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the Supreme Court that he had not got any instructions from the government in response to six options put forward by the court in the case on January 10.
The options included taking action against the President for violating the Constitution, initiating contempt proceedings against the chief executive and the law secretary for not implementing the NRO verdict, and making them ineligible from the membership of Parliament.
The Supreme Court has been pressing for investigations into allegations of corruption against Zardari dating back to before his time in office. He and other leading politicians had been protected by a politically inspired amnesty agreed to in 2008 that the court struck down in 2009, leaving him vulnerable.
The government has so far refused to comply, arguing the President has immunity.
Last week, the court threatened to dismiss Zardari and Gilani if they continue to ignore its demands. It ordered government representatives to appear in court on Monday to explain what they planned to do.
Zardari himself has said that the government will not approach the Swiss authorities as long as he is in office as such a move would be tantamount to putting on trial the grave of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, who too had benefited from the NRO.
However, the Supreme Court warned last week that the Premier could be disqualified and that action could also be taken against the President if the government kept defying its orders on the NRO issue.
Ahead of the crucial hearing in Supreme Court, the embattled PM Gilani turned to Parliament for support, amid indications that the powerful military would rally behind the apex court.
The National Assembly, meanwhile passed the pro-democracy resolution supporting PM Gilnai.
Gilani congratulated the Parliamentarians for passing the resolution and said that no one could `pack up the system`.
A judicial commission appointed by the apex court to investigate a mysterious memo that sought US help to prevent a feared military coup in Pakistan last year also continued its proceedings at the same time and its hearing has been postponed till January 24.
Controversial Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who triggered a storm in the country`s political circles by making public the secret memo, has sought time till January 25 to testify before the commission.
Tensions between the government and the military reached a peak last week after Gilani said the Army and intelligence chiefs had acted in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court without getting the government`s approval.
The military rebuked Gilani, saying his remarks could have "grievous consequences". Gilani retaliated the same day by sacking defence secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, a confidant of Kayani, saying he had created
misunderstandings over the memo issue.
The apex court accepted Kayani`s request for a probe into the memo scandal while rejecting the government`s contention that the issue should be investigated by a parliamentary panel.
(With Agencies` inputs)