Gilani seeks suspension of summon order

Islamabad: Citing precedents set by apex courts in countries like India, Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani today filed an appeal in the Supreme Court seeking suspension of its order summoning him for framing of contempt charges over his failure to reopen graft cases against the President.

The 200-page intra-court appeal, filed by Gilani`s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, asked the apex court to suspend its decision summoning the Premier on February 13. Ahsan told reporters outside the court that he had based the appeal on precedents set by apex courts in India, Australia, Britain, France and the US.

In India, there is a provision of filing a review petition against the apex court`s order.
"I have filed an appeal today. I have quoted more than 50 national and international cases and given specific reasons against the Supreme Court`s order," Ahsan said.

He called for an early hearing of the appeal. "It depends on the court to stay the proceedings and decide against summoning the Prime Minister on February 13," he said.

The appeal asked the court to postpone the indictment, saying the ruling was issued without Gilani being given an opportunity to defend himself directly.

On February 2, a seven-judge bench of the apex court had summoned Gilani to appear on February 13 to be indicted for contempt over his failure to act on its order to pursue corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. It added to the tensions between the government and the judiciary.

If Gilani is convicted of contempt, he could be jailed for up to six months and disqualified from holding public office for five years.

The appeal pointed out more than 50 legal and Constitutional points which support the view that the Premier did not go against the Constitution by not reopening the cases against Zardari.

Ahsan said there was no need for the Premier to appear before the court as, according to the contempt of court law, a new bench needs to be formed after an appeal is filed.
"A respondent has 30 days to file an appeal against the court`s decision. I asked for 30 days but the bench only gave me 11 days…We have tried to file the appeal as soon as possible so that a larger bench ? larger than the current one can be formed," Ahsan said.

"Excluding the judges who are currently hearing the case, there are nine judges who can form a new bench for hearing the case…The new bench will definitely include Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry," he said.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in December 2009.

The government has refused to reopen the cases against Zardari, saying the President enjoys complete immunity from prosecution in criminal cases in Pakistan and abroad.

Commentators have accused the apex court of bias, saying it had taken virtually no action against the more than 8,000 other people who had benefited from Musharraf`s graft amnesty.