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Pakistan court gives new PM two weeks on graft order

A two week deadline is granted to Pakistan's new prime minister to indicate he would ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against former president Zardari

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jun 2012
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A move by Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday, giving the new prime minister two weeks to indicate whether Swiss authorities will be asked to reopen corruption cases against the president, indicates that the judiciary is unwilling to end a showdown with the government.

As a result of such a decision, Elections could be held earlier than the expected date, February 2013, when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year mandate.

The court on 19 June dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister after convicting him of contempt in April for refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar cases.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) coalition elected Raja Pervez Ashraf as premier on Friday, after judges issued an arrest warrant for its first suggested replacement.

Five days later, Justice Nasirul Mulk directed the attorney general to find out how the government intended to deal with the Swiss cases and report back on 12 July.

"The new prime minister was elected last week and we trust that he will honour the direction given by this court," Mulk said.

"In the meantime we direct the attorney general to obtain instructions from the prime minister and inform the court... on the next date of the hearing on 12 July," he said.

The allegations against Asif Ali Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.

The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became president.

The government insists the president has full immunity.

But in 2009 the Supreme Court overturned a political amnesty that had frozen investigations into the president and other politicians, ordering that the cases be reopened.

Ashraf faces his own corruption allegations from his tenure as water and power minister, and many believe he will be forced out soon—either by elections or the judiciary.

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