Pakistan's embattled prime minister is not guilty of contempt of court but should bow to pressure and ask Switzerland to reopen graft cases against the president, his lawyer said Wednesday.
The comments from Aitzaz Ahsan are the clearest indication yet that Yousuf Raza Gilani may step back from the brink of further confrontation with the judiciary when he is summoned before Pakistan's top court on Thursday.
The Supreme Court has initiated contempt of court proceedings against Gilani, exasperated by the government's refusal to write to the Swiss asking them to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari since an amnesty expired in 2009.
"Asif Ali Zardari has complete immunity as president," Ahsan told reporters.
"There is no harm in writing a letter to the Swiss authorities. He enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad as long as he is president," he added.
Gilani's decision to appoint Ahsan as his lawyer has been seen as a reconciliatory gesture to the judiciary, which has been on a collision course with the government that most believe will force early elections this year.
Ahsan is a senior leader in Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and a leading barrister well respected by the judiciary for his role in forcing the government to reinstate independent judges in March 2009.
Ahsan said he did not believe Gilani would be convicted.
"I don't think the prime minister has committed contempt of court by not writing the letter. Through my arguments I will try to convince the court that the prime minister is not guilty of contempt."
PPP leaders have accused the judiciary of overstepping its reach and colluding with the army to bring down the administration before its five-year mandate ends in 2013.
Last year, a Swiss prosecutor said that it would be "impossible" to reopen a case against Zardari, as he has immunity.