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Breather for Gilani, SC adjourns hearing to Feb 1
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing on its contempt notice to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani till February 1, leaving the brewing political crisis over corruption cases and presidential immunity unresolved.

The PM drove himself to the apex court and reached around 9.25 am to comply with its directive after being slapped with a contempt notice. The seven-judge Bench led by Justice Nasrul Mulk allowed Gilani’s counsel Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan time to prepare for arguing his contention that President Asif Zardari enjoyed immunity from criminal proceedings under the constitution.

Gilani, in a brief statement, said he did not comply with court orders on writing to Swiss authorities to reopen money laundering against Zardari because he believed that the President enjoyed immunity under Article 248. The court also exempted Gilani from appearing for the upcoming hearing of the case.

Gilani appeared before the apex court to explain why he should not be charged with contempt for failing to re-open old corruption cases against President Zardari. He became the third elected Prime Minister to appear in court on contempt charges after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Gilani’s counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan described it as a significant occasion that the 59-year-old Prime Minister had appeared before the court as directed. Gilani said he could not even think of showing disrespect to the judiciary, adding that he would come to the court whenever summoned.

Aitzaz said the Swiss cases could only be reopened once Zardari ceases to be President. He requested the court for one month to file a response, saying time was required to access and go through case record. Responding to the request, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk said access to records could be provided in two days.

Presenting his arguments, Gilani said that he had “appeared before the apex court previously as well… Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto also appeared before courts during their lifetimes”.

He said: “We respect the courts… my intention is to respect the constitution and my associates also respect the constitution. I decided to appear before the court immediately after getting the notice,” he added.

Gilani further said that the President enjoyed immunity from prosecution in the 18th Amendment.





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