Pakistan Court Orders Gilani to Explain Government Plans to Fire Judges

Pakistan’s Supreme Court summoned the attorney general to explain reports the government plans to fire judges, seeking to avoid a stand-off similar to the one that helped bring down former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

A 17-member panel of justices asked Attorney General Anwar- ul-Haque to explain last night’s allegations broadcast on Pakistani television channels, according to a statement on the court’s website. Those reports claimed the government is considering withdrawing its March 2009 order to reinstate judges fired by Musharraf.

“We will fully cooperate with the court and we will take notice of such irresponsible media reports,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said on state-run Pakistan Television. “The prime minister condemns all such reports.”

The summons comes as the top court hears a case on the government’s failure to implement an order to scrap an amnesty law that protected President Asif Ali Zardari and thousands of officials from graft charges dating back to the 1990s.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry gave Haque until Oct. 18 to submit a written statement from Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, explaining the government’s position on the news reports, after he failed to do so today, state-run Pakistan Television reported. The court restrained the government from sacking any judges, the broadcaster said, citing an order.

The government denied the reports last night, saying there “is no truth behind the news,” according to the Supreme Court’s statement.

8,000 Officials

On Dec. 16, the Supreme Court ordered the National Accountability Bureau, the nation’s top corruption fighting agency, to revive charges against more than 8,000 officials and politicians, including Zardari, after it scrapped a 2007 graft amnesty issued by Musharraf.

Chaudhry, who was removed by Musharraf in 2007 under emergency rule, was reinstated by Zardari in March 2009 following opposition protests. A nationwide protest movement led by lawyers helped destabilize Musharraf in 2007, forcing him to resign a year later.

Renewed conflict with Chaudhry may weaken Zardari’s government as Pakistan struggles to rebuild vast swathes of the country inundated in this year’s worst ever monsoon floods. Waves of water sweeping down the Indus River wiped out $3.27 billion of crops and 4,000 kilometers of roads. The country’s army has also been fighting Taliban guerrillas in its northwest for over a year, sparking retaliatory bombings and suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians and security personnel.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khurrum Anis in Karachi at kkhan14@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net

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