SC adjourns contempt hearing till Feb 1; Gilani gets breather

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Yousuf Raza Gilani
Islamabad, Jan 19: Appearing before the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said he has complete respect for judiciary and cannot think of committing any contempt but stood his ground that his government could not reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari as he enjoyed complete immunity.

Presenting himself before a seven-judge bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk in compliance of its directive after being slapped with a contempt notice, Gilani appeared to have earned a breather when the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing till February 1, 2012 and exempted him from personal appearance on future dates.

Backed by top lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, a barrister, the 59-year-old Prime Minister, the second premier in office to appear before a court in contempt proceedings, said he could not even think of committing contempt of court as he had complete respect for the judiciary.

The bench appreciated Gilani’s decision to appear before the Supreme Court, with Justice Asif Khosa, a member of the bench, saying his appearance showed the supremacy of law.

However, the court raised the question why the government had not acted on its past orders to reopen the cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland after the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty passed by former President Pervez Musharraf, was struck down in 2009.

Explaining his government’s position, Gilani said Pakistan’s Constitution gives full immunity to the President within the country and abroad.

Moreover, Presidents of all countries around the world too have immunity, he pointed out in an extempore statement before the bench that lasted a little more than five minutes.

Gilani said his government was bound to act according to the Constitution and the law.

PTI

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