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Pakistani PM Given More Time to Comply with Graft Order

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Pakistan / Prime Minster / Pernez

Pakistan / Prime Minster / Pernez

Pakistan's Supreme Court has given Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf three more weeks to comply with its order to reopen corruption cases against the country's president.

The decision is seen as a rare conciliatory move in the battle between the government and the judiciary.

Ashraf appeared before the court Monday and pledged to resolve the situation, which resulted in his predecessor being disqualified from office. He said he was facing pressure to resolve the issue which has added to uncertainty in the country.

Judge Asif Saeed Khosa told Ashraf he must comply with the court order, but also noted that "this is not as big a problem as it has been made out."

Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters that Ashraf will go before the court again on September 18.

"He explained his position that government has serious resolve with regard to implement the orders of the court, and we need some more time," Kaira said.

The court wants the prime minister to write to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen a probe into graft allegations against President Asif Ali Zardari, who has denied any wrongdoing.

The judges had asked Ashraf to appear Monday to show why contempt proceedings should not be brought against him for failing to comply.

In June, the Supreme Court found former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt for ignoring the same order.

Pakistan's parliament passed a law in July that would have protected Ashraf by exempting high-ranking officials from contempt proceedings, but the Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional.

Also Monday, authorities say gunmen on motorcycles killed three Shi'ite Muslims in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern province of Baluchistan. The attack comes a day after gunmen killed five people in province's district of Bolan.
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