Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister's lawyer
on Wednesday said he feared that Yousuf Raza Gilani would not get a
fair trial in the contempt case and that the government could
not act on the Supreme Court's orders to revive graft cases
against Asif Ali Zardari as long as he was the President.
Appearing before a seven-judge bench led by Justice
Nasir-ul-Mulk that is hearing the contempt case against the
premier, Gilani's counsel Aitzaz Ahsan said he feared his
client would not get a fair trial as the same judges who had
issued a show cause notice to the Premier were now hearing the
Explaining the stand adopted by the premier on the apex
court's orders to revive cases of alleged money laundering
against Zardari in Switzerland, Ahsan, one of Pakistan's
leading lawyers, said the government cannot comply with the
directives as long as Zardari was the President.
Ahsan said Gilani had never stated that he would not
follow the apex court's orders.
The Premier cannot write a letter to Swiss authorities to
reopen the graft cases against Zardari because the President
enjoys immunity and the court's ruling cannot be acted upon
for the time being, he reiterated.
He further contended that the President enjoys immunity in
198 countries under Article 248 of the Constitution.
Ahsan also said the case against the premier was a
criminal one that must be decided on the basis of evidence and
the judgement cannot be based on newspaper or media reports.
If the accused deserves to be hanged on the basis of
evidence and proof, he should be hanged, Ahsan contended.
On the other hand, if the accused is innocent, the court
should say so, he said.
The bench assured Ahsan that the judges would act strictly
according to the law.
At one stage, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk asked Ahsan whether
the bench should not hear the case.
Ahsan replied that the bench that issued a show cause
notice to the premier and gave a ruling against him before the
conclusion of the hearing should not take up the case.
If Gilani is convicted in the contempt case, he could face
a six-month prison term and be disqualified.
The apex court had earlier set March 21 as the deadline
for approaching Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against
Zardari, but Gilani said in a reply submitted to the court
yesterday that the President could not be left to the mercy of
a magistrate in a Western country as he enjoyed immunity.
Gilani further asked the court to let Parliament decide
the issue of presidential immunity.
In recent remarks to the media, Gilani has said he would
prefer to be jailed rather than violate the Constitution by
reviving the cases against Zardari.
The government has not acted on repeated orders to re-open
the cases against Zardari since late 2009, when the Supreme
Court struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a
graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez
First Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 09:12