No compromise on parl right to legislate: PPP

Islamabad: The Pakistan government appears to be in no mood to back down in its standoff with the judiciary even after the apex court annulled a new law aimed at protecting the Premier, with the ruling coalition saying it will not compromise on parliament`s right to legislate.

Leaders of the Pakistan People`s Party-led coalition gathering for a crucial meeting in the presidency last night after the Supreme Court struck down the Contempt of Court Act, which was passed last month to protect Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf from being disqualified for not acting on the court`s order to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Following the meeting chaired by Zardari and Ashraf, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the leaders discussed the current situation and expressed their resolve "that the right of the parliament to legislate would be upheld and this right would not be allowed to be compromised no matter what the odds and the cost would be".

"The meeting reiterated unequivocally that the power to legislate under the Constitution belongs to elected representatives alone," Babar said.

In an apparent indication that the government is still in no mood to act on the apex court`s repeated orders to revive the graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland, Babar said, "In the context of the present situation, the meeting decided that there is even greater need to remain united and firm. It resolved to remain united and firm and face the emerging challenges with unity, force and conviction."

The apex court has been pressuring the government to reopen the corruption cases since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad. The standoff has already resulted in former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani losing his job.

The apex court convicted Gilani of contempt and then disqualified him for five years.

Despite the pressure from the court, new premier Ashraf has said he too will not approach the Swiss authorities to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari.

The Supreme Court recently set August 8 as the deadline for Ashraf to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases and legal experts have said he faces the possibility of disqualification if he refuses to act.

PML-Q leader Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, a key leader of the ruling coalition, today said the government is mulling several options following the striking down of the new contempt of court law.

The government could take the matter back to parliament or file an appeal against the apex court`s order of yesterday, he said.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira too said the government could file an appeal or present a new contempt of court bill in parliament.

"The President called the PPP`s legal team headed by Law Minister Farooq H Naek, which will give its opinion about the government`s future line of action," he told the media.

Sources said the leaders of the ruling coalition had decided that the premier would inform the Supreme Court on August 8 that the President enjoys immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution and therefore, the graft cases could not be reopened as long as Zardari is in office.

The leaders further decided that the government would sacrifice another premier instead of approaching the Swiss authorities. They also decided that no caretaker set-up would be formed even if Prime Minister Ashraf is disqualified by the Supreme Court, the sources said.