Pakistan prime minister Gilani refuses to give in to court order

The Guardian reports: Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, has appeared before judges in a battle of wills between the government and the judiciary, and refused to accept court orders targeting the president.

The supreme court had called Gilani before it on contempt of court proceedings after the Islamabad government persistently ignored court orders to write to Swiss authorities and ask for a dormant money laundering case to be reopened against President Asif Ali Zardari.

It had been suggested that Gilani might apologise to the court, or even offer his resignation, but he came out fighting on behalf of the president.

“He has complete immunity inside and outside the country,” Gilani told the court on Thursday, making clear he would not write the letter.

“In the constitution, there is complete immunity for the president. There is no doubt about it.”

Gilani’s tone was characteristically soft and polite as he said he could “never think of ridiculing or defaming the court”, but the message was uncompromising.

The stakes are high. Gilani risks being convicted of contempt of court, which could mean jail and disqualification from office. Zardari, leader of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party, would also be barred from office if convicted of a crime.

Standing before the judges in a dark suit, Gilani pointed to other leaders of his coalition government, sitting in a row behind him, and said they were all present to show respect to the court.

In a move seemingly designed to show he was appearing humbly before the judges, Gilani drove the short distance from his official residence to the court with his lawyer, the legal heavyweight Aitzaz Ahsan, in the passenger seat.

In court, however, he reminded the judiciary they were proceeding against an elected leader. “I’m the longest serving democratically elected prime minister in the history of Pakistan,” he said.

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