Pakistan government to appeal decision nullifying contempt law

[JURIST] The government of Pakistan announced Monday that it will petition the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] to review its decision nullifying the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 which was passed to shield the country's new prime minister from contempt charges. Rather than taking the route of reinstating the law through the legislature or the executive, the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) [party website] decided [News Pakistan report] to take it before the judiciary. The PPP also announced that it will challenge the court's order demanding Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf [BBC profile] reopen the investigation into the corruption allegations against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. The Supreme Court had nullified [JURIST report] the newly enacted law last Friday holding that it violates the basic principles of equality among Pakistan's citizens. The bill was passed by the upper [AFP report] and lower houses of the national parliament and signed [JURIST reports] by Zardari last month. It is still unclear when the government is going to file the review petition.

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. The legislature and the president approved the law in order to protect the new PM from possible contempt of court proceedings for failure to reopen the investigation against Zardari. His predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was disqualified from being a member of Parliament after an April contempt conviction [JURIST reports] and removed from office. The court had granted [JURIST report] an additional two weeks for Ashraf to comply with its order last week. The court had ordered [JURIST report] the new prime minister in late June to investigate the corruption allegations against the president. Ashraf, like his predecessor, has argued that the president is immune from prosecution under the country's constitution. The court in response claimed that no one is above the law and thus, the investigation against the president should proceed. During the same month, 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.

 

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