Asia

Pakistan judges give PM two more weeks to pursue Zardari

File photo of Raja Pervez Ashraf
Image caption Mr Ashraf was elected PM amid turmoil in June

Pakistan's Supreme Court has given PM Raja Pervez Ashraf another two weeks to pursue corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The court said earlier that the PM had until 25 July to ask the Swiss authorities to reopen previous cases.

In June the court disqualified Yousuf Raza Gilani as PM after convicting him of contempt for failing to pursue corruption cases against Mr Zardari.

He had argued that the president had immunity from prosecution.

On Wednesday Judge Asif Saeed Khosa adjourned the case against Mr Ashraf until 8 August after the attorney general, representing the government, asked for more time to make "serious and genuine efforts" to resolve the impasse with the judiciary.

"We trust that it is not impossible to bridge the gap between stated positions of the two institutions," the judge said.

Correspondents say it is not clear what will happen to the prime minister if he does not initiate action against Mr Zardari - it is possible he could be jailed or face contempt of court proceedings.

On Tuesday, the attorney general urged the court to withdraw its orders, calling them "un-implementable" and contrary to the constitution.

The wrangling between the court and the government is being seen as part of a long and bitter feud between them. The government also has a troubled relationship with the powerful military.

The corruption charges against Mr Zardari date back to the 1990s when his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister. They were accused of using Swiss bank accounts to launder bribe money.

Mr Zardari has insisted the charges against him are politically motivated.

Observers say Pakistan can ill-afford its constitutional in-fighting. The country's economy is in crisis, as are relations with the US, and militants are waging a violent insurgency in tribal areas near the Afghan border.

General elections are due by early next year, with the Pakistan People's Party-led government aiming to make history by becoming Pakistan's first civilian government to see out a full five-year term.