Gilani defends Zardari amid SC pressure to reopen graft cases

Last Updated: Saturday, September 25, 2010 - 00:26

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani on Friday mounted a strong defence of the Pakistani
President and asserted that Asif Ali Zardari enjoyed immunity
from prosecution, amid stepped up pressure from the Supreme
Court to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against him.

Gilani said his government has always respected and
implemented the apex court`s verdicts but made it clear that
no action could be taken against Zardari till he remained in
the office of President.

The constitution approved by parliament has a
provision that gives immunity to the President, Gilani said
while speaking in the Senate or upper house of parliament.

Authorities can decide on reopening the corruption
cases against Zardari when his immunity ends after he
completes his tenure in another two-and-half years, he said.

Gilani said the parliament alone could withdraw the
immunity granted to the President if it desires.

"(I) request that we give respect to the
institutions. Giving respect to the institutions doesn`t mean
only respect for the judiciary.

"What about parliament and other institutions? We
respect all institutions but under the ambit of the
constitution," he said.

The President, he asserted, is part of parliament and
the supreme commander of the armed forces. The parliament
would be incomplete without the President, he said.

Gilani also took a dig at his detractors who have been
calling for a change of government, saying they were "running
after a black cat in a dark room".

Political circles have been abuzz with speculation
about a change in the corridors of power following the
Pakistan People`s Party-led government`s inept handling of
devastating floods and other issues.

In the past few days, the Supreme Court has stepped up
pressure on government functionaries to ask the Prime Minister
to approve a move to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against
Zardari.

The apex court says this should be done as part of the
implementation of its verdict striking down the National
Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a graft amnesty that benefited
Zardari.

During a hearing on the issue today, a bench headed by
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said Prime Minister Gilani is
a "wise man" and should be aware of the "consequences" of not
approving the move to reopen the cases against Zardari.

The Attorney General, who represented the government,
sought time till Monday to submit the administration`s views
in court.

However, media reports said the law ministry had sent
a formal proposal to the premier which said the cases of
alleged money laundering against Zardari could not be reopened
as he enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

Pakistani Law Minister Babar Awan told the media that
the graft cases were a "past and closed transaction" and the
government was bound to act in line with the law and the
constitution.

On the other hand, main opposition PML-N chief and
former premier Nawaz Sharif today said the issue of the
President’s immunity should be decided by the apex court.

"The Supreme Court alone should decide on this. It is
the only institution which can decide the issue of whether the
President has immunity or not," he told a news conference in
Lahore.

Sharif said he was with the Supreme Court on the issue
of implementing the verdict scrapping the NRO.

"There is no doubt that the Supreme Court`s order must
be accepted at any cost," he said.

While defending the President, Gilani said he would
ask all persons who benefited from the NRO and are now holding
government positions to voluntarily resign.

The Prime Minister said he had also directed the Law
Ministry to furnish its views and recommendations on the
matter.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, September 25, 2010 - 00:26

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