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More embarrassment for Gilani, Pak SC unwilling to back off

Discussion in 'South Asia & SAARC' started by DaRk KnIght, Jan 17, 2012.

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  1. DaRk KnIght

    DaRk KnIght Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    More embarrassment for Gilani, Pak SC unwilling to back off - The Times of India


    ISLAMABAD: In yet another embarrassment for the beleaguered Pakistan government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the licence of a lawyer close to President Asif Ali Zardari, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani faced the possibility of a case being filed against him for alleged misuse of authority. The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the lawyer's licence of Babar Awan, a former law minister and the president's close aide, who is acting as the government's lawyer in several high-profile cases for failing to respond to a contempt notice.

    An 11-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry suspended Awan's licence when he appeared in court to represent the government in a case for reviewing the death sentence awarded to former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

    The bench said the action was being taken as Awan had failed to respond to a contempt notice.

    It further said Awan's behaviour towards the apex court had been "inappropriate". Pakistan's main anti-corruption watchdog is considering a proposal for filing a case of misuse of authority against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani under which he could face a prison term of 14 years if convicted.

    The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is contemplating filing a case against Gilani in connection with the appointment of Adnan Khwaja as chairman of the state-run Oil and Gas Development Company even though Khwaja had already been convicted by court.

    "The Supreme Court and the government are in an open clash now, and it seems fairly obvious the court is unwilling to back off," said Cyril Almeida, a lawyer and columnist for Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, Associated Press reported.

    Even before the latest clash with the court, the government was locked in a bitter conflict with the army over a secret memo sent to Washington last year aimed at stopping a supposed military coup.

    The Supreme Court ruling boosted the sense that the administration could fall, squeezed between the court and Pakistan's powerful generals. Some observers have speculated the army is working behind the scenes with the court to oust the government by constitutional means.

    "Once the Supreme Court, the army and the political opposition agree the government needs to go sooner rather than later, it seems very difficult for the government to stay on," Almeida said.

    Still the court could have its own reasons for stepping up pressure on the government. Supreme Court Justice Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry has clashed with Zardari in the past, and the judges could be fed up with the government defying its order to reopen the corruption case against the president.

    Gilani promised to appear before the Supreme Court on Thursday but warned both the judges and the army that they must protect democracy.

    "It cannot happen that they derail system," said Gilani after a majority in parliament - mostly the ruling party and its allies - passed a resolution supporting the government.

    The resolution said the balance of powers "must be fully respected and adhered to and all state institutions must strictly function within the limits imposed on them by the constitution."

    Critics have predicted the civilian government's demise many times since it was elected in 2008 after 10 years of military rule, and it has always defied the forecasts. But this time around, the crisis has drawn the army in more directly, and the court seems to be in no mood to compromise

    Since Pakistan was founded in 1947, no civilian government has ever completed a full five-year term before being toppled by a military coup or forced to call early elections. There have been three coups over that period, and while a fourth is considered unlikely, early polls look increasingly possible because of the rising tension.

    The Supreme Court has ordered the government to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against the president that dates back to the 1990s. The case centers on $60 million in kickbacks that Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, allegedly received from Swiss cargo companies.

    The government has refused to reopen the case, saying Zardari has immunity, and supporters say the court is pursuing a vendetta against the civilian leadership.

    Zardari has been vulnerable to prosecution since 2009 when the Supreme Court struck down an amnesty granting him and other leading political figures immunity from past graft cases. The court deemed the amnesty, which was granted in 2008, as unconstitutional.

    The court initiated contempt proceedings against the prime minister on Monday after the government failed to respond to an order outlining a series of punitive options the judges could take if the government did not reopen the case against Zardari. Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the court he had not received instructions from the country's leaders on how to respond to the order - a response that clearly angered the judges.

    Faced with going to jail, Gilani may tell the court during his appearance Thursday that he intends to write the letter to Swiss authorities authorizing them to reopen the case against Zardari, but that could come with a serious political cost.

    Zardari stated in an interview last week that he would never send the letter, saying it would dishonor his late wife. Last year, Swiss prosecutors told reporters they couldn't reopen the case because Zardari had immunity.

    The prime minister has also clashed with army - the strongest institution in the country - over the memo scandal.

    The army was outraged by the memo, which was allegedly sent by the government and offered the U.S. a raft of favorable security policies in exchange for reining in the military.

    The army pushed the Supreme Court to open an inquiry into the scandal last month against the wishes of the government, which has denied any connection to the memo and argued the matter was already being probed by parliament.

    Gilani criticized the army last week for cooperating with the Supreme Court probe, saying the standoff was nothing less than a choice between "democracy and dictatorship." The prime minister's comments followed a warning from the generals of possible "grievous consequences" ahead if the government did not stop its criticism of the army.

    Gilani warned members of parliament Thursday, especially in the opposition, of serious consequences if they didn't stand by the government in supporting democracy.

    "If there is no democracy, everything will be finished," said Gilani. "If there is no democracy, we will all go together."
     
  2. tariqkhan18

    tariqkhan18 Major Staff Member ADMINISTRATOR

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    What does this mean for India? Anybody?
     
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