Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Pakistani Supreme Court has summoned Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for failing to reopen a corruption case pending against President Asif Ali Zardari. The case of the legal proceedings against the head of state in recent months led to the indictment of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (see AsiaNews 19/06/2012 Supreme Court rules Gilani cannot be premier), who had to leave office giving rise to an unprecedented institutional clash between the executive and judicial powers. Analysts and policy experts warn that the new internal confrontation between the government and judiciary could exacerbate the climate of "instability" and favor the rise of the extremist fringe.
The new prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraz (pictured) is expected to appear in court on 27 August, but it is impossible to tell if he will respect the courts summons. The leader of the executive is likely to be indicted for "insulting" the Court, because his behavior would hamper the judges work on the corruption case that has implicated President Zardari. Yesterday, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the first political force in the country and currently in government decided not to send a formal request to the Swiss authorities to proceed with the reopening of the investigation against the head of state (Zardari is also PPP leader together with his son, Bilawal, ed), but the party intends to "resist" the pressures of the highest legal body "within the limits" enshrined in the Constitution. The PPP leaders aim is to "survive politically" for two or three months, even if judges were to determine Ashraz's removal.
The roots of the story lie in legal problems that date back to 1990, when Zardari's wife Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Head of State is alleged to have used branches of the Swiss Bank to "launder money", but the former Prime Minister Gilani has always opposed the reopening of the investigation. The then Prime Minister defended himself by claiming to have received indications that it was "unconstitutional" to continue the case. At the same time, President Zardari has repeatedly reaffirmed that the charges against him are "political in nature."
Gilani was the first prime minister in Pakistani history to be convicted by a court. The clash of powers - which now continues with Ashraf - are likely completely overshadow priorities for the country that should instead be addressed: from economic growth to the fight against corruption, the sore point of Islamic fundamentalism, coupled with a need to strengthen education and literacy rates.
Moreover, the Supreme Court rulings and the judiciary's interventions bring the figure of the Chief Judge Iftikhar Chaudhry back to the fore, in the past at the center of a bitter battle with former President Pervez Musharraf, and since then the magistrate has always covertly worked to increase his personal power and prestige in Pakistan.