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26 February 2024

Pakistan court threatens to disqualify president, PM


Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday warned it could disqualify both the president and prime minister from office for disobeying its orders to re-open high profile corruption cases.

The court gave the government a one-week deadline to move forward stalled corruption proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari and others but made no ruling, only outlining options to be reviewed by a larger panel of judges.

The top court has been locked in a standoff with the government since December 2009, when judges ruled to scrap an amnesty that had allowed Zardari and 8,000 other people to escape possible corruption charges.

There are more than 30 politicians who had cases against them withdrawn under the amnesty, which was passed in October 2007 by then-president Pervez Musharraf.

The amnesty covers 3,478 cases ranging from murder, embezzlement and abuse of power to write-offs of bank loans worth millions of dollars.

The court has insisted that with no amnesty now in place, the government must proceed with all corruption cases, including a multi-million-dollar money laundering case against Zardari in Switzerland that remains on hold.

But the government has so far stalled on the court's request to send a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the case and to make progress on all other corruption cases.

The Supreme Court said it was "dismayed" over the "brazen and blatant failure" of the government to implement court orders.

Judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, presiding over a five-judge panel, said there was "at least prima facie evidence" that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was not an "honest" person because he had violated his oath, and accused Zardari of the same.

Reading the order, Khosa said both Gilani and Zardari could be disqualified from parliament, effectively removing them from office, for violating their oaths of offices.

The court listed six possible outcomes for the case, including the disqualification of the country's two top civilian leaders.

Other options included the initiation of contempt proceedings against top officials, the setting up of a commission to implement the court's order or to put the issue to a countrywide vote.