Pakistan's top court said on Thursday it intended to indict prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt on February 13 over his refusal to pursue corruption cases against the president.
Judge Nasir-ul-Mulk told the Supreme Court there were grounds to proceed against Gilani, despite the government's insistence that President Asif Ali Zardari has immunity from prosecution while he is head of state.
"After the preliminary hearing, we are satisfied that prima facie there is a case for further proceeding into the matter.
"Adjourned for February 13, for framing charges. Prime minister is required to remain present in the court," Mulk said, reading out the order in English.
Gilani's lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan said it was possible to appeal.
"He (Gilani) has been asked to be present in person on February 13 when he will be indicted," he said.
"There is a possibility for an appeal in this matter. It is up to the court whether to suspend this order or not. This will be decided after getting a copy of the order," Ahsan added.
Pakistan's embattled prime minister went before the Supreme Court on January 19, to explain his refusal to ask Switzerland to re-open graft cases against Zardari on the grounds that the head of state has immunity.
He defended himself against contempt charges and refused to back down in a case that could see him disqualified from office if convicted.
It is only the second time that Pakistan's highest court has pursued contempt proceedings against a sitting prime minister, plunging the weak government deeper into a crisis that could force early elections within months.