Pakistan PM ordered to court
Pakistan's Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani today, ordering him to appear before the court for failing to pursue long running corruption cases against the president and other officials.
"In these circumstances, we are left with no option, as a first step, to issue a show cause notice," the notice issued by the seven-member bench stated. "The prime minister should appear personally in court on January 19th."
The court order was a sharp escalation in the government's battle for survival, in which it faces twin assaults from the military over a mysterious memo and from the Supreme Court over the implementation of numerous orders over the last two years.
"This is not a small, usual thing," Pakistani Law Minister Moula Bakhsh Chandio told reporters outside the Supreme Court. "This is a Supreme Court order on which we will consult our committee of experts. We will take the necessary steps in light of the constitution and the law."
While Mr Gilani is the one facing a contempt hearing, most observers say the court's real target is President Asif Ali Zardari.
During the 1990s, Mr Zardari had multiple cases of corruption and even murder lodged against him, all of which he says are false and politically motivated.
An amnesty deal that protected him from prosecution was nullified in 2009 and the court has been pushing for the government to re-open and investigate the corruption cases against Mr Zardari. The government refuses to do so saying Mr Zardari enjoys immunity as the head of state.
Former law minister Khalid Anwar said Mr Gilani would likely appear before the court and then the attorney general would request that he not appear regularly, which the court would likely agree to.
The civilian government separately embroiled in a dispute with the military over an unsigned memo sent in the wake of the US commando raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year.
The memo, allegedly drafted on the direction of former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani, asked for US help in reining in the army, which the memo said was planning a coup.