Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday set July 25 deadline for Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf to approach Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, triggering a fresh political crisis over the issue which had cost his predecessor his job.

A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa directed Ashraf to write to the Swiss authorities without any further consultations on the matter with legal experts or within the government.

The Apex Court had earlier directed the Premier to inform it by Thursday whether he would contact the Swiss authorities about the graft cases.

The bench said it expected the Premier to write to the Swiss authorities and furnish a report on complying with the court's order at the next hearing on July 25.

SC warns appropriate action against Zardari

If the Premier failed to do so, the court will take appropriate action under the Constitution against him, the bench warned. The same issue had cost Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, his job.

Gilani was convicted of contempt in April after he refused to act on the Apex Court's orders to reopen the graft cases. A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry disqualified Gilani for five years last month.

Hours before the Apex Court issued its latest order to Ashraf, President Zardari signed into law a bill aimed at protecting top government leaders from contempt of court proceedings and countering the court's efforts to pressure the premier to revive the graft cases in Switzerland.

The bench headed by Justice Khosa also rejected Ashraf's response that was submitted through Attorney General Irfan Qadir.


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