ISLAMABAD – The standoff between the government and the judiciary continues to build up as both sides are not prepared to retreat, especially from their declared position on the issue of writing to Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Background interviews with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders reveal that the ruling party has strategized to keep questioning the impartiality of the superior judiciary to degrade it in the public eye.

 Lately, the party leaders have stepped up their efforts in this regard and it seems the PPP is preparing for final showdown with the supreme court.

The party sources said that hurriedly-passed controversial contempt of court law was also a move in that direction.

They said the party believes the law would give them little direct relief in the NRO implementation case – which has already resulted in the ouster of Yousuf Raza Gilani – but it would serve as a propaganda tool, more so if it the SC court strike it down as expected. This would afford them a good chance to portray themselves as a victim and win over public sympathies, benefiting them in upcoming general elections as well.

This law, poorly spun according to legal experts, has already been challenged in the apex court and the relevant parties including the prime minister have been given notices in the case for July 23 – two days ahead of the hearing (on 25th) of NRO case wherein the new prime minister has been told to file his compliance report on the Swiss letter issue.

The PPP leaders were of the view that it would not be easy for the SC to send another PM packing. But the court seems determined to get its orders implemented. Some constitutional experts say the apex court is entrapped in its own judgment and it could not accept anything less than compliance of its earlier order.

Sources said that this time the PPP leadership would come up straight on the subject by saying that the constitution bars writing the letter; resultantly, the question of presidential Immunity under article 248 would come under focus. But for securing immunity under article 248, the government will have to apply for seeking it in the graft case pending against President Zardari in Switzerland.

During the contempt trial of Gilani, his counsel Aitzaz Ahsan had declined to argue on presidential immunity despite insistence of the judges, understandably, fearing that it might expose the president and eventually result in his ouster from the office.

Experts say that if Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf takes the same position as that of his predecessor, his fate would not be much different from Gilani. But, they say, if the government decides to claim immunity, the court would have to listen to their arguments.

This would buy them time and provide them with breathing space, besides handing them more chances of maligning the judiciary by portraying it as partisan and anti-PPP.

Some constitutional experts say in case of landing the question of immunity under article 248, the court would rule it inapplicable in cases falling under purview of state courts as the SC judges have already remarked that it only provides shield against prosecution originating in foreign lands.

They said the court even could strike off article 248 from the constitution as it is clash with the Objectives Resolution that says no law repugnant to Islamic injunctions would exist in the country.