Pakistan court gives prime minister more time to resolve corruption dispute

Pakistani PM faces contempt charges
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Story highlights

  • Prime Minister Ashraf tells the court he is "serious" about resolving the issue
  • The Supreme Court wants an old corruption case reopened against the president
  • The government has refused to push Switzerland to revive the case
  • The court forced the previous prime minister from office over the issue
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf of Pakistan told the country's Supreme Court on Monday that he wants to resolve a long-running quarrel between the government and the judiciary that cost his predecessor his job.
Ashraf appeared before the court Monday to face contempt proceedings over the government's refusal to carry out the judges' request to push Swiss authorities to reopen an old corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.
"I am serious in my desire to resolve this issue," Ashraf told the Supreme Court justices, saying he wished to avoid a confrontation with the judiciary.
The court adjourned the case until September 18, giving the prime minister more time "to make genuine and serious efforts to understand the issue and then to take steps to implement orders of the court."
Ashraf, who has been in office for less than three months, faces the same challenge from the Supreme Court justices that brought down his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, in June.
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While he was prime minister, Gilani steadfastly refused to carry out the court's request to seek the reopening of the corruption case in Switzerland, insisting Zardari was entitled to immunity as president.
The court found him guilty of contempt and subsequently forced him out of office.
Ashraf, a staunch loyalist to Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party, replaced Gilani and has become the new focal point of the court's attention. It is unclear how he can hope to satisfy the judges' request without undermining the president.
The pressure the Supreme Court justices have brought to bear on the government has generated headlines and political controversy, but so far it hasn't had a seismic effect on the nation's stability.
The current government is approaching the end of its term in February, the first time since the state was founded that an administration would complete a five-year term.
The prime minister decided to attend the court hearing Monday after consulting with Zardari and senior members of the governing coalition on Sunday night, according to a statement from the president's spokesman, Senator Farhatullah Babar.
Ashraf has also faced allegations of corruption. In 2011, he was accused of scheming to receive kickbacks from private power companies during his time as minister of water and power.
The case was also heard by the Supreme Court and a ruling is pending, Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader of the Pakistan People's Party said in June.
Pakistan has been beset by militant activity and political tumult for years. Fighters from the Taliban and al Qaeda use the northwestern territories as bases for attacks in Afghanistan, and U.S. drones regularly strike militant positions.