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Pakistan passes bill to curb contempt of court rulings

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani lawmakers have passed a bill that would exempt senior government ministers from contempt of court proceedings, a move seen as a bid to save the new prime minister from disqualification.

The Supreme Court has given Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf until Thursday to indicate whether he will obey an order to ask Swiss authorities to reopen multimillion-dollar corruption cases against the president.

The court dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister on June 19 after convicting him of contempt in April for refusing to reopen the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The bill passed by the lower house of the Pakistani parliament on Monday night said senior government figures including the president, prime minister and ministers could not be found guilty of contempt for acts performed as part of their job.

The bill must be passed by the upper house and signed off by the president before it becomes law.

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