Pakistan high court begins contempt proceedings against PM

The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] began contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Monday after he refused to comply with a court order. The prime minister was ordered to appear in court Thursday [AP report] to explain why he did not comply with the court's order to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. Last week, the Supreme Court warned [JURIST report] Gilani that failure to comply could result contempt charges and removal from office. The conflict between the prime minster and the court stems from an order which struck down [JURIST report] the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text] in 2009, which granted immunity to Zardari and 8,000 other government officials from charges of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and terrorism between January 1986 and October 1999. Gilani has not acted on the court's orders, maintaining that the president has immunity from prosecution [AP report].

These proceedings reflect an ongoing struggle between the government and the courts in Pakistan. Last month, the Supreme Court formed a judicial committee to investigate a secret memo [JURIST report] sent from an unknown Pakistani source to US Admiral Mike Mullen in May asking for help in preventing a suspected army coup. Zardari and former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani have been accused of writing or having knowledge of the memo, and both have denied these allegations. In October, the Supreme Court issued a judgment urging political parties to stop financing criminal groups [JURIST report] responsible for increased violence in the city of Karachi. The decision stated that militant groups have gained strength because of support from local political groups and ordered the Pakistani government to help address the corruption. The court struck down the NRO in 2009, which was signed [JURIST report] by former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] in 2007.

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