Pakistani court again threatens premier with contempt case
DPA ISLAMABAD PAKISTAN’S Supreme Court on Wednesday again threatened to charge Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani with contempt of court over his refusal to ask Switzerland to investigate the president for money laundering.
The warning was given to his lawyer Aitizaz Ahsan as the court ordered him to complete arguments by Thursday on why his client should not be charged with contempt.
The premier was summoned on January 19 over his failure to obey a court order to write to Swiss authorities to ask them to reopen money-laundering cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
“The court will initiate the contempt proceedings against Mr Gilani if you (Ahsan) fail to convince the court that it should do otherwise by tomorrow,” said Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, one of the seven judges.
Gilani has argued that the letter was not dispatched because the president, who also heads the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, enjoyed immunity in the country as well as in Switzerland.
The issue has brought the country’s increasingly assertive judiciary and the civilian government into conflict, triggering a political crisis. Gilani could lose his job if the court finds him guilty of contempt of court. Such a decision would push Pakistan into a deep political crisis at a time when its economy is faltering and it is battling Islamist militants.
Meanwhile, Pakistani police said on Wednesday they were investigating how and why a parcel containing anthrax was sent to the prime minister’s official residence in the capital Islamabad last month.
It appeared to be the first reported case of anthrax sent to a government office in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of 174 million that is battling a Taliban insurgency and where Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was shot dead. “The parcel containing anthrax powder was sent last month. After the laboratory test confirmed that the parcel contained anthrax we registered a case against unknown people,” said police officer Hakim Khan.
There was no immediate confirmation from the prime minister’s house, which lies in the heavily secured secretariat area of the capital Islamabad.
Neither was it immediately clear who was responsible, or how they could have accessed anthrax, of any quality, in Pakistan. Police said the parcel was posted from the Jamshoro district in southern province Sindh, the capital of which is Karachi — Pakistan’s biggest city used by the US to ship supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan. “We have sent a police team to investigate it and to find the culprits there,” said Khan, an officer at the secretariat police station.
But in Jamshoro, 180 kilometres northeast of Karachi, police said they had not been informed by Islamabad of any anthrax delivery, instead finding out through local media reports. “We have not yet received any instructions from the government to investigate this matter,” local police official Bashir Ahmed told AFP.
“We have asked the local post office protectively to check their records to know about the sender.
“We can’t say how long it will take to complete the investigation.
We expect a quick result if the sender’s identity is not fake.” In November 2001, police arrested two men suspected of sending a letter containing anthrax to Pakistan’s largest newspaper, Jang.