Pakistan’s Supreme Court gave Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf another two weeks to approach Swiss authorities and revive the corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari. Earlier, the court had set a deadline of July 25 to reopen the graft case. Last month, Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified for the post of PM, because he failed to pursue the Zardari case, and the court threatened that Ashraf may also suffer the same fate, if he couldn’t reopen the case.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Attorney General Irfan Qadir, who was representing the government, said that the case should be postponed until after Eid-ul-Fitr, so that the PM gets sufficient time to make “serious and genuine efforts.” But Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa rejected his plea, and extended the deadline till August 8, 2012.
Quadir also raised questions over the presence of Khosa in the bench, saying that Khosa was prejudiced, but the five-judge bench rejected this request as well. Khosa responded by saying that he would never do anything that may harm democracy, or country’s reputation. He also said he respected Zardari as much as anybody else.
“We trust that it is not impossible to bridge the gap between stated positions of the two institutions,” the judge said.
The tussle between the government and the court has been going on since December 2009, when the court started pressuring central government to take action against President Zardari, who enjoys immunity, within, and outside of Pakistan, as head of the country.
Zardari and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, are alleged to have laundered $12 million in the 1990s, using their Swiss bank accounts. Mr. Zardari has constantly been reiterating that corruption charges against him are politically motivated.
The constitutional in-fighting may force elections before early 2013, when the government led by the Pakistan People’s Party, if it survives, will be the first civilian government in Pakistan’s history to complete its full term.