Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice for contempt of court to former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf, saying he had tried to influence the court by asking it to form a commission to investigate graft charges against him.
The notice was issued by a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, which ordered Ashraf to appear in person in two weeks.
Chaudhry observed that Ashraf had tried to influence the court by writing a letter to him on the issue of forming a commission to investigate an alleged scam in the setting up of "rental power projects".
The Chief Justice observed that Ashraf had already accepted the court's decision in the case and there was no need to re-examine the verdict and form a commission.
He noted that the government had also withdrawn its review petition in the case.
In its order, the bench said Ashraf's decision to approach the court for setting up a commission was tantamount to seeking a favour from the court without the completion of due process.
The order asked Ashraf to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.
The bench directed Wasim Sajjad, the counsel for Ashraf, to consult his client on whether he would withdraw the letter he had written in his capacity as the premier.
Sajjad argued that Ashraf had sent the letter to the Chief Justice through the Supreme Court's Registrar's office and that the move was not aimed at influencing the court.
Earlier, K K Agha, the Prosecutor General for the National Accountability Bureau, told the bench that the apex court could refer the matter to any forum for a probe.
The Chief Justice was irked by the fact that the letter was written on the letterhead of the Prime Minister, and said such missives should not be addressed to the apex court.
The apex court had earlier ordered the arrest of Ashraf and other accused in the case but the NAB, Pakistan’s main anti-corruption agency, had said it had no evidence against the suspects to make arrests.
The charges against Ashraf date back to his tenure as Power Minister, when the Pakistan People’s Party-led government had cleared the setting up of rental power projects to overcome a crippling energy crisis.
The Supreme Court is probing alleged corruption in the setting of the projects.
If Ashraf is convicted of contempt, he will be ineligible for the general election scheduled for May 11.