Pakistan PM ordered to re-open case against Prez Zardari
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the country’s new prime minister to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The move came hours after the government introduced a law to protect senior figures from being ousted from power by judges.
It marks the latest round in a bitter struggle between government and judiciary as Pakistan comes to terms with democracy following almost a decade of military rule.
Last month, the Supreme Court disqualified Yousaf Raza Gilani from the post of prime minister after he was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to resume corruption investigations against Zardari, prompting a political crisis.
On Thursday, the court ordered his successor Raja Pervez Ashraf to comply with the order by July 25 or risk conviction, raising the prospect of a second prime minister being ousted in quick succession.
Members of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party believe the judges are pursuing a political vendetta and are intent on bringing down their government.
The country is already struggling with a militant insurgency, crippling power cuts and economic woes – and can ill-afford a lengthy period of political instability.
However, the civilian government, the military and the courts are locked in a struggle for supremacy ever since General Pervez Musharraf was forced from power in 2008.
Hours earlier, Zardari signed into law a controversial bill exempting senior officials from contempt of court charges, in an apparent attempt to shield Ashraf from the charges faced by his predecessor.
However, the law is likely to face legal challenge.
The controversy dates back to 2007 when General Musharraf threw out thousands of corruption cases against civil servants and politicians. It was part of a UK and US-brokered deal to ease a transition to civilian rule and allow Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Zardari, to return to the country unhindered by corruption allegations.