ISLAMABAD – The Pakistani government Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to withdraw orders over reopening corruption cases against the president in a legal wrangle which has already cost one prime minister his job.
Earlier this month the court levelled a veiled threat to remove the new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf from office as well unless he agrees to pursue multimillion dollar graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The judiciary has been trying for years to force the administration to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen investigations into corruption allegations dating back to the 1990s.
Ashraf’s predecessor as PM, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was thrown out of office on June 19 after the Supreme Court found him guilty of contempt because he refused to write to the Swiss, saying Zardari had immunity from prosecution as head of state.
Judge Asif Saeed Khosa had ordered Ashraf to submit a report on July 25 “regarding compliance… failing which this court may initiate any appropriate action under the constitution and the law” — hinting that he too could be disqualified.
But government lawyers struck a defiant posture on Tuesday, saying the administration could not carry out the court orders.
“The Prime Minister cannot be asked by means of the aforesaid orders for implementation of an un-implementable direction given by the Supreme Court,” the government said in a written submission seen by AFP.
It said that the court orders ran contrary to the constitution, which grant immunity to Zardari against trial in any court while he is president.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir, for the government, urged the court to recall the orders “to meet the end of justice”.
The judiciary has appeared unwilling to end a showdown with the coalition government which could force elections before February 2013 when it would become the first in Pakistan’s history to complete an elected, full five-year mandate.
Judges have said that Ashraf was “bound to implement the relevant directions of this court,” just like Gilani.
The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
In 2009 the court overturned a political amnesty that froze investigations into the president and other politicians, ordering that the cases be reopened.