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Central & South Asia
Pakistan court grants PM time in graft case
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf given until September 17 to reopen graft cases against current President Zardari.
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2012 12:29
Ashraf's predecessor was removed from office after refusing to reopen the corruption cases [Reuters]

Pakistan’s highest court has given Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf time to reconsider whether he will write to Swiss authorities to request the reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The court made the ruling in Islamabad on Monday, the latest move in a legal saga that has lasted for over two years.

Presiding Judge Asif Saeed Khosa has given Ashraf more time to indicate whether he would write to the Swiss before adjourning the case.

Ashraf pledged to find a way to resolve the standoff and will appear in court again on September 18.

Presidential immunity

The current Pakistan People’s Party government has resisted judiciary demands to reopen investigations into Zardari, arguing he enjoys immunity as head of state.

Ashraf appeared at the nation's highest court on Monday to face the same allegations that were levelled against his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, who also refused to comply with court orders to request a multi-million dollar corruption probe against Zardari.

Gilani had insisted the president was entitled to immunity from prosecution and was disqualified from his position as prime minister by the court on June 19.

After dismissing Gilani, the court gave Ashraf two weeks to indicate whether he would write to the government of Switzerland, where the illicit funds are allegedly being kept.

Earlier allegations

Al Jazeera's correspondent Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the court in Islamabad, said the judge clarified that there was misunderstanding within the government over who should write the letter to Swiss authorities.

"Justice Khosa went on to say anybody from the government could write this letter. This issue would be resolved in a day if  someone from the government would just write this letter about his corruption case involving President Asif Ali Zardari," said Tyab.

It is expected that the outcome of the case could force elections before they are scheduled to be held in February 2013, spoiling the current cabinet's opportunity to become the first in Pakistan's history to complete a full five-year term.

The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of laundering $12m allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.

In 2009, the court overturned a political amnesty that froze investigations into the president and other politicians, ordering all cases to be reopened.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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