Pakistan Prime Minister to be charged with contempt


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The Independent Online

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal filed by the Prime Minister against a looming contempt charge, paving the way for a case that could plunge the country into political turmoil.

Pakistan's highest court is demanding that the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, reopen corruption proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari. Mr Gilani is refusing, arguing that Mr Zardari, who also heads the ruling party of which the Prime Minister is a member, has immunity from prosecution while in office.

Mr Gilani could be sentenced to prison for six months and lose his job if found guilty of contempt. Since January, the case has consumed Pakistan's highly polarised political and media élite.

"Our appeal has been dismissed and as a result the Prime Minister will be charged with contempt of court on the 13th," Mr Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said.

The case against Mr Zardari relates to kickbacks that he and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, allegedly received from Swiss firms when Ms Bhutto was in power in the 1990s.