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Pakistan may add Supreme Court seats to deal with backlog: law minister

[JURIST] The Pakistani Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan [official profile] said on Friday that the government was considering increasing the size of the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] to deal with the backlog of cases created by the Court's overturning [JURIST report] of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text] earlier this month. The decision removed the amnesty granted by the NRO to President Asif Ali Zardari [official profile; BBC profile], Awan, and 8,000 other members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party [party website]. Awan went on to say that the establishment of proposed military courts would be unconstitutional [International News report] as a means of reducing strain on the courts caused by trying those who engaged in recent fighting [BBC backgrounder] in the Northwestern tribal provinces.

Last week, a Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Interior Minister Rehman Malik [official profile] on corruption charges. The charges came two days after a special 17-member panel of the Supreme Court ruled unanimously [JURIST report] that the NRO is unconstitutional, paving the way for corruption charges to be brought against Zardari and other members of his government. The NRO was signed [JURIST report] by former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in 2007 as part of a power-sharing accord allowing former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] to return to the country despite corruption charges she had faced. The ordinance also applies to similar charges against politicians who were charged, but not convicted, of corruption between 1988 and 1999.

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