Pakistan's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, upholding an earlier order that he must appear before the high court next week to answer contempt-of-court charges.
The ruling is seen as exacerbating tensions between Pakistan's executive and judicial branches, and could potentially bring down the Gilani government.
In the decision announced on February 10, the Supreme Court upheld a February 2 ruling that Gilani must appear before it on February 13 to face contempt charges in connection with his government's refusal to ask Switzerland to reopen a corruption investigation against President Asif Ali Zadari.
Gilani's government asserts that Zadari is protected by immunity, while the court insists that no one is above the law. Both Gilani and Zadari are leaders of the ruling Pakistan People's Party.
If convicted, Gilani faces up to six months in jail and could be barred from holding public office.
Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, told journalists on February 10 that his client respected the court's decision and planned to appear as summoned on February 13.
The accusations against Zadari stem from Swiss cases dating back to the 1990s when his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.
He was convicted in absentia in 2003, but the charges were dismissed during the appeals process at the request of the Pakistani government following a controversial 2007 amnesty law adopted under former President Pervez Musharraf.
The Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional in 2009, setting in motion the current standoff.
Earlier this month, Gilani's lawyer said the courts do not have the power to remove the prime minister from office. Only parliament can do so under the constitution, attorney Aitzaz Ahsan said.
With agency reports