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Prime Minister Gilani may be in more trouble

January 17, 2012 19:12 IST

In yet another embarrassment for the beleaguered Pakistan government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the licence of a lawyer close to President Asif Ali Zardari, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani faced the possibility of a case being filed against him for alleged misuse of authority.

The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the lawyer's licence of Babar Awan, a former law minister and the President's close aide, who is acting as the government's lawyer in several high-profile cases for failing to respond to a contempt notice.

An 11-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry suspended Awan's licence when he appeared in court to represent the government in a case for reviewing the death sentence awarded to former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The bench said the action was being taken as Awan had failed to respond to a contempt notice. It further said Awan's behaviour towards the apex court had been "inappropriate".

Pakistan's main anti-corruption watchdog is considering a proposal for filing a case of misuse of authority against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani under which he could face a prison term of 14 years if convicted.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is contemplating filing a case against Gilani in connection with the appointment of Adnan Khwaja as chairman of the state-run Oil and Gas Development Company even though Khwaja had already been convicted by court.

Gilani and Khwaja were detained in jail together during the previous regime of President Pervez Musharraf.

NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari told the News daily that action will be taken in cases of alleged illegal appointments made on the orders of the premier under the law and rules.

Former Establishment Secretary Ismail Qureshi, who was recently arrested on graft charges and released on bail, has reportedly told NAB investigators that Gilani and his

Principal Secretary Nargis Sethi were responsible for Khwaja's appointment.

NAB sources said Gilani had violated a section of the NAB law that carries a jail term of up to 14 years.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the prime minister to appear before it personally next Thursday to face contempt charges for disobeying its order to reopen graft cases against the President.

Meanwhile, Zardari in a bid to defuse tensions with the army, held talks with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne on Monday.

The meeting is believed to be a follow-up of talks held between Zardari and Army Chief Gen Asfaq Parvez Kayani over the weekend, Dawn newspaper quoting a source reported.

A brief statement issued by the presidency said Zardari and Wynne discussed professional matters pertaining to the armed forces.

However, sources told the Dawn that the two leaders focussed on finding a way out of the ongoing impasse.

Though there was no certainty about how the civil-military talks were progressing, there were "hints that some progress is being made", the report said.

An unnamed army official told the Dawn that Kayani had made no demand during his meeting with Zardari that the prime minister should retract comments about the army chief acting unconstitutionally in his handling of the memo issue.

The official said the meeting between the army chief and the President was held "for lowering temperatures rather than raising it".

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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