News / Asia

Pakistani PM Appears Before Supreme Court

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari speaks to journalists (2011 File)
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari speaks to journalists (2011 File)
Ayaz Gul

Pakistan’s beleaguered prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, has made a rare appearance before the country's supreme court, amid increased tensions between his government and the country’s fiercely independent judiciary.

Gilani appeared before the supreme court in a bid to avoid being held in contempt for his failure to pursue corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Thursday's preliminary proceedings took place amid tight security in and around the court building and were mainly aimed at allowing the prime minister to explain his position.

Gilani told the court his government was unable to initiate legal proceedings against the president because he has immunity while in office.

Afterward, his attorney, Aitzaz Ahsan, told reporters that the prime minister’s presence demonstrates the government holds the judiciary in high honors.

“He [Gilani] has accepted the majesty of the law and the majesty of the supreme court,” said Ahsan.

The supreme court will reconvene early next month, but agreed that the prime minister would not have to appear again in person.

Politically motivated

The corruption cases against Zardari date back to the 1990s when his slain wife Benazir Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan. Some of the cases were instituted in Switzerland. But Zardari and his wife insisted the cases were false and politically motivated.

A controversial amnesty deal that protected President Zardari and thousands others from prosecution was canceled by the supreme court two years ago. The government was also ordered to revive all the cases and write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the legal proceedings there.

Legal analysts like former Pakistani law minister Syed Mohammad Zafar believe it is for the supreme court to determine whether the prime minister’s argument claiming immunity for Zardari holds.

“The supreme court will see whether the reiteration has any validity or not," said Zafar. "And, if it finds that it has no validity it may proceed to announce an order of the contempt.”

Possible sentence

If convicted on contempt charges, the Pakistani prime minister could face up to six months in prison and be disqualified from holding political office. That could destabilize the government and push President Zardari into deeper political trouble.

The legal troubles for Pakistan’s embattled coalition government come amid growing tensions with the country’s powerful military. That conflict stems from an alleged presidential memo seeking Washington’s help in removing the current military leadership.

The political tensions also come at a time when the country’s ties with the United States are at their lowest since the November cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More