Pakistani daily criticises new contempt law

Published: 11th July 2012 10:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2012 10:52 AM   |  A+A-


Pakistan's new contempt law "for all practical purposes provides immunity to top holders to flout court orders", said a daily, calling it a bid to save Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf from an "adverse order by the Supreme Court".

Ashraf faces the Supreme Court's July 12 deadline to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

An editorial in the News International Wednesday said that Ashraf's fate hangs in the balance for the same reason that caused his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani's ouster -- "refusing to obey court orders and write the Swiss letter".

"In a bid to save another prime minister and not willing to take a chance with the court's mood and what it considers its meddlesome forays, the government has done its own damage control in the form of a damaging piece of legislation," it said.

The daily observed that the contempt bill sailed through the National Assembly Monday, and "for all practical purposes provides immunity to top holders to flout court orders".

The law exempt holders of public office from contempt in "exercise of powers and performance of functions" and also exclude from the realm of contempt "fair comments" made in "good faith" about the general working of the courts or on the merits of a decision of a court," it said.

"Although the bill does not name names, legal experts are agreed that the office holders referred to are the prime minister, federal ministers, provincial chief ministers, provincial ministers, provincial governors, and even the president."

The editorial added: "...there is no denying that the legislation has been framed solely to save the new prime minister from an adverse order by the Supreme Court."

The daily went on say that one can now expect a new debate on whether or not the new law is lawful, "buying the government the precious time it so needs to make it to the elections and also give it the ammunition to clutch even more desperately to its martyr mantra".

"In all this ruckus, there will be one sore loser: Pakistan."

The Pakistan Muslim League-N and other opposition members protested against the bill in the National Assembly and called it a "black law".

And the editorial said: "It wouldn't be unfair to agree with them."

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