Pakistan’s PM to be Indicted for Contempt

Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to appear on February 13 to face charges of contempt for failing to reopen old corruption cases against thousands of people, including President Asif Ali Zardari.

The seven-member bench ruled Thursday that there was enough ground to proceed further and charge Gilani with contempt of court.

If found guilty, the prime minister could lose his job and go to jail. But legal experts say the nature of the sentence will depend on the ultimate conviction order.

Thursday's development is the latest in an ongoing battle between the court and the prime minister over the status of corruption cases dating back to the 1990s. Prosecutors accuse Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and others of laundering millions of dollars through Swiss bank accounts. Ms. Bhutto, President Zardari's wife, was assassinated in 2007.

Charges against President Zardari and other Pakistani officials were dropped under a controversial 2007 amnesty agreement. But the Supreme Court struck down the deal in 2009 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 the president as long as he is in office. But he told Parliament Thursday he respects the court and will appear for the February 13 hearing.

Gilani's lawyer said he advised his client to appeal the contempt case even before a trial begins.