Supreme Court drops contempt charge against Pakistani PM

Islamabad, Nov 14 (IANS) The Pakistan Supreme Court Wednesday withdrew contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf over a letter to Swiss authorities seeking reopening of corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, a media report said.

A five-member bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali resumed hearing of the contempt case against the prime minister for defying the apex court's orders in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case.

Federal Law Minister Farooq Hamed Naek apprised the court about the letter written to Swiss authorities.

He also presented the receipt of the letter to Swiss authorities and told the court that they had received the letter Nov 9.

The court then withdrew the contempt proceedings against the premier.

On Nov 7, the Pakistan government sent the letter to the Swiss authorities.

In January, the apex court had ordered then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against Zardari. He was convicted April 26 of contempt of court for declining to comply with the court directive and disqualified as prime minister as well as parliament member June 19.

Accused of graft, Zardari was granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return home from exile, and primarily that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Zardari and Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.

The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in law in 2009.