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Pakistan Supreme Court Takes Hard Line Against PM

Aitzaz Ahsan, (C) the lawyer of Pakistan's prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, leaves after appearing the Supreme Court in Islamabad, February 2, 2012

Pakistan's Supreme Court says it will drop contempt charges against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani if he complies with an order to reopen old corruption cases against the president.

The court heard Gilani's appeal Thursday, but stuck to its original position that the prime minister must write to Swiss authorities and ask for the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari to be reopened.

The prime minister argued that Zardari has legal immunity from prosecution while in office.

Gilani is due to appear in court on Monday to face the contempt charge. If found guilty, he could lose his job and spend six months in jail.

The corruption cases against President Zardari and other Pakistani officials dating back to the 1990s were dropped under a controversial 2007 amnesty agreement. But in 2009 the Pakistani Supreme Court threw out the amnesty, commonly referred to as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, and ordered the government to reopen the cases.

Prime Minister Gilani has refused to implement the decision, saying the country’s constitution does not allow him to initiate any legal proceedings against Zardari as long as he is president of the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.