The prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told the Supreme Court yesterday that the government would comply with a longstanding demand to reopen an old corruption case against the president, defusing a conflict that has roiled the country's political system and led to the ousting of the last premier.
President Asif Ali Zardari is believed to be in little immediate danger from the case in Switzerland, where he is recognised as enjoying immunity from prosecution as a foreign head of state. But the decision came as a surprise to many, given the government had refused for months to follow the court's order to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen the case.
Both sides have come under public criticism for focusing on the case instead of dealing with the weak economy, electricity shortages and a bloody Taliban insurgency.
Mr Ashraf said he finally ordered the law minister to write to the Swiss "in the larger interest of the country, in the larger interest of the people of Pakistan and in the larger interest of the integrity of Pakistan".
The case relates to millions of dollars in kickbacks that Zardari, pictured, and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, allegedly received from Swiss companies when she was in power in the 1990s.