ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has convened a meeting of the heads of parties in the ruling coalition on Monday to decide whether Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf should appear before the Supreme Court on Tuesday and what stance should he take in connection with the court’s directives to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening a money- laundering case against the president.
It is learnt that a debate is going on in the PPP ranks on the issue of the PM’s appearance on Sept 18 and many in the party are of the view that Raja Pervez himself should not go to the court and someone else should represent him.
“This is what we will decide (in the meeting)… whether the prime minister should appear before the court in person or someone else should represent him. And what stance he should take in connection with the writing of the letter,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told Dawn.
The statements of Mr Kaira and Law Minister Farooq Naek, who is pursuing the NRO implementation case as the head of the government’s legal team, indicate that President Zardari will again leave the decision on the issue to the allied parties.
“We will let you know by tomorrow whether the prime minister will appear before the court or not,” said Mr Naek.
It is learnt that Prime Minister Ashraf may tell the apex court that he is willing to obey the court orders but wants to refer the issue of writing the letter to the federal cabinet to seek its advice.
It is believed that if the Supreme Court accepts the prime minister’s request he would gain some more time.
“We will also decide by tomorrow whether the prime minister will ask the court to send the matter to the federal cabinet or not,” the law minister said.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was removed from his office by the court for not writing the letter, had also taken the advice of his cabinet where there was a consensus that no proceedings could be initiated against President Zardari in any court of law because he enjoyed immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution.
The government, in its reply to the court on July 24, stated that the prime minister could not write the letter to Swiss authorities to reopen a money- laundering case against President Zardari. The reply stated that under the constitution, the advice of the federal cabinet was binding on the prime minister.
Prime Minister Ashraf, who assumed the charge in June, appeared for the first time before the apex court in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case on August 27 and assured it of taking serious steps to resolve the issue.
But, the government appears to have done nothing to implement the court orders and if anything has been done, it has not been made public.
Prime Minister Ashraf had sought four weeks to resolve the issue but the court directed him to take a decision in 22 days and appear before the court on Sept 18.
The prime minister’s political adviser Fawad Chaudhry said in a private TV talk show that Raja Pervez had been advised not to appear before the court on Tuesday. But, a final decision will be taken by the ruling coalition in a meeting on Monday.
He said the law minister still stuck to his stance that no letter could be written to get the cases against the president reopened in any court He, however, claimed that tension between the government and the judiciary was decreasing. “Things are moving in the right direction,” he said.