‘No action against Zardari till he holds office’

Aitzaz Ahsan said the President`s immunity would end after he leaves the post.

Last Updated: Jan 23, 2012, 19:02 PM IST

Lahore: With Pakistan Supreme Court yet to
decide on the immunity status of Asif Ali Zardari, Prime
Minister`s lawyer on Monday underlined that no criminal action can
be taken against the President as long as he hold the office.

Aitzaz Ahsan, one of Pakistan`s top legal experts who is
defending Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case
in the Supreme Court, said the President`s immunity would end
the day after he leaves the post.

"When the President leaves his post, his immunity ends the
very next day and there will be no harm in writing a letter
(to Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money
laundering against him)," he told reporters at the Lahore High
Court complex this afternoon.

Gilani recently appointed Ahsan - who is also a senior
leader of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party - as his lawyer
after he was served a contempt notice by the apex court for
failing to act on order to revive graft cases against Zardari.

The apex court will resume hearing the case on February 1.

Explaining the government`s position, Ahsan said: "At this
time, Article 248(2) of the Constitution says no criminal
proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued
against the President during the tenure of his office in any
court.

"The day Asif Ali Zardari leaves the post of President,
the next day the federal government can write a letter (to
reopen the cases)...But as long as a person is President,
regardless of who is in the post, no action can be taken."

In the same way, no court in Pakistan would accept writ
petitions filed against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
or High Courts as they had immunity, Ahsan said.

The cases against Zardari were closed under the National
Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued in 2007 by
former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited over
8,000 people.

The apex court struck down the NRO in December 2009 and
has been pressuring the government since then to reopen the
cases.

The government has refused to act, saying the President
enjoys immunity under the Constitution.

PTI