Pakistan's leader in court for contempt

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The Independent Online
Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif denied showing contempt for the judiciary yesterday when he became the first serving Prime Minister to appear on a contempt of court charge. Mr Sharif said in a statement that he had high esteem for the judiciary, with which he has been at loggerheads for months, but said: "I have neither committed contempt of court, nor do I intend to do that."

Mr Sharif sat in court with his entire cabinet when counsel read out the statement. The hearing was adjourned until today and Mr Sharif was unlikely to appear again, aides said. His remarks fell far short of the apology which some newspapers had said he would make to the court to take some of the tension out of the nation's political life.

The continuing confrontation with Mr Sharif's nine-month-old government has dominated political life and unnerved investors. The proceedings arise out of remarks Mr Sharif made when the supreme court suspended one of his first pieces of legislation which outlawed the practice of legislators changing sides, something that has bedevilled politics in the past.

Mr Sharif's statement said it was his duty to express his views on court rulings "in the light of varying opinions ... It is unfortunate if in the performance of my duty towards these obligations, any of my statements has been deemed by any learned judge to be in contempt."

The Pakistani Prime Minister, who returned to power with a sweeping majority in February, has been at loggerheads with the country's chief justice, Sayed Sajjad Ali Shah, for months over a variety of issues.

- Reuters, Islamabad