A bill aimed at shielding top leaders from contempt charges and curbing the Supreme Court’s efforts to push Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf into reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari was set to be introduced in a special session of Pakistan Parliament on Friday.
The government intended to get the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 passed by the National Assembly and the Senate before the apex court takes up the issue of reviving graft cases against Zardari on July 12. A Constitutional amendment Bill was also to be introduced by the government to allow holders of dual nationality to contest polls, days after the apex court suspended the membership of nine federal and provincial lawmakers, including former Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The special session of the National Assembly was to start Friday while a session of the Senate had been convened on Monday.
The Contempt of Court Bill provides blanket immunity to top government functionaries for executive actions. It can also be used to launch disciplinary proceedings against a judge without such a move coming under the ambit of contempt.
Senior PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf became the premier last month after his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for refusing to approach Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases against Zardari.
If parliament passes the draft Bill and it is approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, it will replace the erstwhile Contempt of Court Act 1976.
Besides protecting the powers of holders of public office mentioned in Article 248 of the Constitution, which include the president, prime minister, governors, chief ministers, federal and state ministers, the bill shields “any authority” against contempt charges.
The Bill needs to be passed by a simple majority in both houses of Parliament and experts have said the PPP-led coalition has the required numbers. PTI