Gilani offers to quit after apex court contempt notice


    Islamabad, (IANS) Pakistan slipped into further uncertainty Monday as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani offered to resign after the Supreme Court issued him a contempt notice for not implementing a directive to act against President Asif Ali Zardari for corruption.

    Gilani was directed to appear personally before the apex court bench Jan 19.

    Zardari, accused of graft, had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was issued in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate the return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Zardari. The NRO was struck down as void by the Supreme Court in 2009.

    Gilani offered to resign to save democratic system and parliament, reported ARY News.

    The prime minister made the offer after a meeting with Zardari. Both leaders discussed the current political situation in the country, Geo News quoted sources as saying.

    Partners of Pakistan’s ruling coalition also met and decided that Gilani would appear before the Supreme Court Jan 19.

    The coalition partners advised the prime minister to avoid confrontation and play his role to eradicate tension between the state institutions, Dawn News reported.

    A seven-member Supreme Court bench Monday resumed hearing on the implementation of the NRO, under which the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had withdrawn cases against Zardari.

    Dawn quoted Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio as saying that the government would talk to lawyers regarding the court’s notice and that the next step would be taken in accordance with the law and constitution.

    Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the Supreme Court that he had not received any instructions from the government in response to six options put forward by the court in the case Jan 10.

    The options included taking action against the president for violating the constitution, initiating contempt proceedings against the chief executive and the law secretary for not implementing the NRO verdict, and making them ineligible from the membership of parliament.

    The apex court had earlier warned the government of action if its ruling on the amnesty law, which granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases, was not implemented by Jan 10, 2012.

    The court had also sought reopening of cases closed under the NRO. It had ordered the government to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against the president and set a seven-day deadline.

    Just two days before the Supreme Court’s five-judge bench order Jan 10, Zardari said he would remain the country’s president for only the next 12-15 months and the next government could write to the Swiss courts on his alleged money laundering.

    “Why would my government do so?” he asked Geo TV.

    Zardari became the president in September 2008 for a five-year term.

    The NAB had in 1998 accused Zardari and the late Benazir Bhutto of awarding a pre-shipment inspection contract to the Societe Generale Surveillance (SGS). This was done in return for six percent commission on the total amount the company received from the Pakistan government, it claimed.

    Earlier in August 2008, Swiss judicial authorities, acting on the request of the Pakistani government, had closed the money laundering case against Zardari and released $60 million frozen in Swiss accounts.

    Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan Monday said the country would stand by the Supreme Court, after the apex court issued the contempt notice to Gilani.

    Speaking in Punjab’s Sukkur city, Imran said the country would stand by the Supreme Court if the government decides to take on the court.

    He said the government did not comply with the court orders so as to protect Zardari.

    “The whole nation is with the Supreme Court. The constitution, not parliament, is sovereign and no one will accept martial law,” Geo News quoted Imran as saying.