Islamabad: Pakistan Supreme Court has adjourned the contempt case against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf till September 18. Ashraf has asked for more time of about four to six weeks from the court. The court, however, seems to be taking a hard stand. It has told Ashraf that contempt of court is avoided not by merely appearing in court, but by following the court's directives.
The Supreme Court has asked Ashraf to name a point person who will get in touch with the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
Several federal ministers, including Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and leaders of the ruling coalition arrived in the court earlier to appear alongside the premier as a show of solidarity.
The court has told Pervez Ashraf to respect judiciary and follow the court's order. The case has been adjourned till September 18.
Both Kaira and Malik told reporters outside the court that the premier was appearing in the court as the ruling Pakistan People's Party had always respected the judiciary despite decisions that had gone against the party, including the "judicial murder" of PPP founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
The two ministers further said they expected justice from the Supreme Court.
Ashraf is in court after he refused to reopen numerous corruption cases against Zardari, just like his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani. The court had issued Ashraf a showcause notice earlier this month after he failed to act.
The order said it was unfortunate that the Prime Minister had failed to implement the court's directives.
The court had on July 25 given Ashraf time up to August 8 to write to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against Zardari.
In June, the apex court disqualified Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, after convicting him of contempt for not acting on repeated orders to revive the corruption cases against Zardari.
Legal experts have said Ashraf could face the same fate as Gilani.
A meeting of leaders of the ruling coalition chaired by Zardari late on Sunday night decided that the premier would appear in court despite reservations expressed by several top PPP leaders.
A section of the party, including Gilani, was opposed to Ashraf's appearance in the court as it believes that it would make no difference.
Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi, a leader of the PML-Q, said a consensus situation was made regarding the premier's appearance in court on Monday.
Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim said the PPP had always respected the judiciary but according to the Constitution, a person like the premier could not be punished twice for the same matter.
Information Minister Kaira noted that former premier Gilani had appeared in court three times and that the PPP had accepted his disqualification despite reservations.
"We didn't accept the decision in our hearts but we obeyed it. Today, we are appearing again because we respect the judiciary," he said.
Extensive security measures were put in place for the premier's appearance in the apex court.
About 700 policemen and additional personnel of the Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps were deployed to guard the "red zone" where the Supreme Court and other key buildings like the parliament are located.
A helicopter was used to conduct surveillance of the area.
The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive the cases against the President since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.
The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad.
(With additional information from PTI and IANS)