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Pakistan's Supreme Court Strikes Down Contempt Law

  • VOA News

Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf waves to media in Islamabad, June 22, 2012.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf waves to media in Islamabad, June 22, 2012.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has struck down a law that would have given the prime minister immunity from contempt charges, as a fight between the judiciary and government heats up.

Parliament passed the law last month to protect Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and other top government officials from the same fate as former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

In June, Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled Gilani was ineligible for office after it found him guilty of contempt for refusing its order to reopen corruption claims against the president.

On Friday, the Supreme Court said the law exempting officials from contempt proceedings is unconstitutional.

Current Prime Minister Ashraf now has until August 8 to tell the court whether he plans to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

For months, the Pakistan People's Party-led government has resisted calls from the judiciary to open corruption cases against Zardari, claiming he has immunity as head of state.

Also Friday, Pakistan's army said a military court has convicted five officers of having links to a banned Muslim group.

Those convicted include Brigadier Ali Khan, who was sentenced to five years in prison. The other four were majors.

The army did not name the organization, but officials said the officers were arrested for having links with Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The Islamist organization says it wants to establish a caliphate or a state governed by Islamic law.

The officers have the right to appeal.
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