Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Insists on Presidential Immunity

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani along with his counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan on Thursday appeared before the Supreme Court to file a reply to the contempt notice which the court had served on him for not implementing its judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Gilani insists on presidential immunity

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (C) arrives at the Supreme Court in Islamabad on January 19, 2012.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani along with his counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan on Thursday appeared before the Supreme Court to file a reply to the contempt notice which the court had served on him for not implementing its judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

He became the third elected prime minister to appear in court on contempt charges.

Ahsan told the seven-member bench that the prime minister had appeared before the court as directed.

He said the Swiss cases against Asif Ali Zardari could only be reopened once he ceases to be the president.

Gilani also presented his arguments in the court and said that he had appeared before the SC previously as well…Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto also appeared before the courts during their lifetimes.

He said:  “We respect the courts…my intention is to respect the constitution and my associates also respect the constitution.”

“I decided to appear before the court immediately after getting the notice,” he added.

Gilani further said that the president enjoys immunity from prosecution in the 18th Amendment, adding that a president elected with two-third majority could not be handed over to foreign courts.

Concluding his arguments, Gilani said that he had not given any impression that would entail contempt of court.

During the hearing, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany said deliberately refusing to implement a court order was tantamount to contempt of court, adding that, the premier has said that he had no intention of committing contempt.

Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk commended the prime minister for appearing before the court.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, moreover, said that the media reported the ruling on the NRO implementation case in an inaccurate manner.

Federal ministers and lawmakers from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and other political parties were also present on the ocassion.

A DawnNews reporter present on the court’s premisis said that no Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader had yet arrived for the hearing.

Speaking to media representatives here today, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan praised the role the PPP played in the restoration and independence of judiciary.

Asfandyar Wali Khan, chief of the Awami National Party, told journalists before the start of the proceedings that friends are not to be left alone in difficult times.

He said that being a coilation partner of the government he had to come to the court.

“The court wanted some clarifications and the prime minister decided to attend himself. This is something the court and media should appreciate,”Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters.

A spokesman for the ruling party, Qamar Zaman Kaira, said Gilani’s acceptance of the court summons “shows his respect” for the country’s highest court.

“We fight cases in the courts, we do not fight with courts,” Kaira added.

Meanwhile, strict security measurements were in place in the capital city on the day when the bench resumed proceedings.

Surveillance cameras had been installed in court rooms as well as at public entry gates and in reception areas.

Due to limited seating capacity in room No 4, entry was regulated through passes. The gallery has been reserved for media representatives.

Moreover, no one was allowed to enter the city’s Red Zone area or the Supreme Court premises without special permission passes.

Earlier, Ahsan, the prime minister’s counsel, had said in an interview on Wednesday that going by Article 248 of the Constitution (immunity for a sitting head of state), the prime minister had not committed contempt of court.