Gilani to consult lawyer on SC ultimatum on graft cases

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said he is "confused" and "surprised" by the Supreme Court`s ultimatum asking him to approach Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against the President and he will take a decision on it after consulting his lawyer.

He made it clear that he did not think he had committed contempt by not acting on the court`s earlier orders to revive cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland. "I am confused as it is not clear which case the Supreme Court wants me to address in the letter (to Swiss authorities)," Gilani said during an interaction with a group of Pakistani journalists last night.

"I follow rules, I follow the Constitution and I don`t feel that I have committed any contempt," he said in response to the questions about the court`s March 8 order directing him to write to Swiss authorities on reviving the cases against the President.

Significantly, the court had said that he should act without waiting to consult his legal advisors. Gilani said he had to sign many files and take decisions in the national interest every day and he was not sure which case the Supreme Court had referred to.

He said he had "full respect" for the judiciary and would decide his future course of action after consulting his lawyer. The Supreme Court has fixed March 21 as the deadline for Gilani to write the letter to Swiss authorities.

It issued the directive while hearing a case regarding the implementation of an order striking down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The apex court is separately hearing a contempt case against Gilani for failing to act on its repeated orders to revive the cases against Zardari. The court has observed that the contempt proceedings should not affect the implementation of its judgment on the graft amnesty.

In a related development, a copy of the apex court`s order for Gilani to approach the Swiss authorities by March 21 was on Saturday delivered to Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq.

The order stated that despite the premier`s appearance in court in the contempt proceedings, he was yet to commit to implementing the court`s judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

"On March 21, the Prime Minister will have to submit a report to the court stating that the order has been complied with and that he has directed relevant authorities to write a letter to the Swiss authorities," the order stated.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive the cases against Zardari since December 2009, when it struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance that was issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys complete immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and abroad.