Asharf to appear in SC tomorrow to face contempt charges
Islamabad/Lahore: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Asharf will appear in the Supreme Court on Monday to face a contempt charge though a section of the ruling Pakistan People's Party is opposed to the move, sources said today.
"The emerging consensus is that the Prime Minister will appear in court tomorrow though some leaders are totally opposed to the move," a close aide to the premier, who did not wish to be named, told a news agency this evening.
"There are some leaders who feel that the judiciary has crossed all limits and that the premier's appearance in court will make no difference to the ongoing standoff," said the aide.
The apex court has summoned Ashraf to personally appear on August 27 to face a contempt of court charge for refusing to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland.
Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was convicted of contempt and disqualified by the apex court in June for refusing to reopen the cases against Zardari.
Legal experts have said Ashraf could face the same fate as Gilani.
During his appearance in court, Ashraf is expected to tell the judges that he had not committed any contempt as the PPP had taken a principled stance on not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities regarding the reopening of graft cases against Zardari.
The PPP's decision on Ashraf's appearance in court was apparently influenced by the thinking of its close allies like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party, which are opposed to any confrontation between the government and the judiciary ahead of the general election scheduled for next year.
Another PPP leader, who participated in a meeting of the party's core committee that was chaired by President Zardari on Friday, too said Ashraf would appear in court tomorrow.
"Yes, he is going to the court," the leader told a news agency in Lahore.
The leader said that since Ashraf had not issued any "anti-judiciary statements" since he assumed office after the apex court disqualified his predecessor Gilani, the Supreme Court had no "moral ground" for charging him with contempt.
"Unlike Gilani, the Supreme Court can't be harsh with Ashraf as he has not said a word against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry or the judiciary," the leader said.
"We also believe that the PPP will gain by the Prime Minister's appearance in court," he added.
Fawad Chaudhry, an adviser to the premier and a member of his legal team, told a news agency that a good number of PPP stalwarts, including Gilani, did not want Ashraf to appear in court.
"I am also against the premier's appearance in court but either way, the PPP stands to gain," he said.
The apex court has been pressuring the PPP-led government to revive the cases against the President since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.
The PPP has refused to act, saying the President enjoys immunity from prosecution in Pakistan and abroad.
PPP leaders have also accused the judges of acting in a biased manner, saying the apex court has only focussed on Zardari and not the other beneficiaries of the graft amnesty.