The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Wednesday ordered the country's new prime minister to reopen the investigation against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. With the order, the court gave [WP report] Raja Pervez Ashraf, the new prime minister and former federal energy chief, until July 12 to respond to the order. Ashraf and his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] have argued that the president is immune from prosecution under the country's constitution. The court, however, claimed that no one is above the law and thus, the investigation against the president should proceed. The court on Wednesday also ordered the president to disassociate himself from any political activities and warned him that he could face contempt of court charges if he fails to follow the court's directives.
The country's judiciary has been in conflict with the executive branch since political leaders have rejected the court's order to investigate into the president's alleged corruption practices. Last week, a Pakistani court ordered [JURIST report] the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin [BBC profile], a former health minister from Punjab Province and the nominee for the country's then-vacant prime minister position for allegations that he was involved in irregularities in the amount of the controlled drug Ephedrine circulating within the country during his tenure as health minister. The arrest order was issued the same day the president nominated Shahabuddin to fill the position of former prime minister Gilani who was disqualified two days earlier from being a member of Parliament since his April contempt conviction [JURIST reports]. He was convicted of contempt because he refused to open an investigation against the president.