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Pakistan high court grants PM additional time to reopen presidential corruption case

The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Monday granted Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf three additional weeks to urge Switzerland to reopen an old corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. Ashraf appeared in court on Monday to explain why the court should not charge him with contempt [VOA report] for failure to initiate the corruption investigation. Ashraf was appearing in the Supreme Court after it issued a decision earlier this month ordering him to appear [JURIST report]. In June the Supreme Court ordered Ashraf to reopen the case [JURIST report] by writing a letter to Swiss authorities [DAWN report]. Switzerland said it will not be pursuing the case which was originally instituted in the 1990s. The next hearing on this case in Pakistan is now scheduled to take place on September 18.

These proceeding in Pakistan exemplify the mounting tension in the country between the judicial and executive branches of government. Some have argued that the judiciary in Pakistan is becoming too powerful. The former prime minister Yousef Raza Gilani [BBC profile] was disqualified from being a member of Parliament after an April contempt conviction [JURIST reports] and removed from office when he declined to follow the same court order that has been given to Ashraf. In early August the government announced that it will petition the high court to review its decision nullifying [JURIST reports] the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 which was passed to shield the country's new prime minister from contempt charges. The bill was passed by the upper [AFP report] and lower houses of the national parliament and signed [JURIST reports] by Zardari last month. The court had ordered [JURIST report] the new prime minister in late June to investigate the corruption allegations against the president. Ashraf, like his predecessor, has argued that the president is immune from prosecution under the country's constitution.

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