Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pakistan: Pakistan hints at opening of graft cases against President Zardari

Source: IRNA

Islamabad, Sept 19, IRNA – Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Tuesday told the country’s top court that his government has decided to withdraw a letter previously sent to the Swiss authorities for closing graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Statement from the Prime Minister before a five-member bench of the Supreme Court is being considered as a major step toward solution to the longstanding stalemate between the government and the judiciary over the President’s graft cases in Switzerland.

Legal experts argue the decision is a big change in the government’s stand as it will open the way for reopening of the cases in Swiss courts. But some are of the view that it would be clear after the letter is drafted.

The Supreme Court had earlier issued several orders to the Prime Minister to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against the President but the government has so far refused to accept the orders on the plea that the President enjoys immunity as head of the state.

But on Tuesday the Prime Minister, who appeared in the Supreme Court, informed the judges that the government has decided to write to the Swiss authorities about the withdrawal of a letter through which the cases had been closed in Swiss courts.

The apex court had disqualified Yusuf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister for his refusal to write to the Swiss authorities in June.

The graft cases were shelved in 2007 after then attorney-general Malik Qayum wrote letters to the Swiss authorities following the promulgation of a controversial amnesty law by then military president, Pervez Musharraf.

The Supreme Court, however, scrapped the National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2009 and declared that all cases closed under the defunct law stood open.

Prime Minister Ashraf informed the apex court that he had told Law Minister Farooq Naek to write to the Swiss authorities that the government intends to withdraw the previous letter to the Swiss authorities.

The court adjourned the hearing until September 25, giving one week more time to send letter to the Swiss authorities and to inform the court about the contents of the letter.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading a five-member bench and hearing the case, asked the Prime Minister to draft the letter in two or three days.

The Law Minister had sought one week time to write letter to the Swiss authorities, adding that he may make some mistakes in writing the letter if written in a hurry.

The Prime Minister also requested the court to provide him immunity from court appearances. The court accepted his request and now he would not be required to personally appear.