Pakistan PM faces disqualification over contempt of court action

The Guardian reports: Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, has been threatened with jail for contempt of court and ordered to appear before the supreme court in person, raising the possibility that he could be disqualified from office.

In the ongoing clash between the government and the courts, the judges again went on the offensive on Monday, issuing a “show cause” notice for contempt of court to Gilani. He will have to appear on Thursday to explain himself.

There was feverish speculation that the prime minister could resign before the court hearing, with the possibility discussed at an emergency meeting of the coalition.

The case hinges on the legal immunity of President Asif Ali Zardari, which Gilani is trying desperately to protect. The court had previously ordered the government to write to the Swiss authorities, asking them to reopen old corruption cases against Zardari for money laundering. The government insists, however, that the president enjoys constitutional immunity from any criminal charges.

Gilani has repeatedly refused court orders to write to the Swiss government, raising the risk that he could be found in contempt of court.

The judges were incensed with the government’s lack of response on Monday to the issue of sending the letter, saying “therefore we have no choice” but to start contempt proceedings against Gilani.

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