Islamabad: Pakistan government on Tuesday stuck to its decision that it would not reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland and told the Supreme Court that reports about his alleged involvement in laundering of USD 60 million were "exaggerated”.
Law Minister Babar Awan, who was summoned by the apex court to explain the government`s failure to fully implement a verdict striking down a controversial graft amnesty, told a five-judge bench that his ministry`s records stated there was no case against Zardari in Switzerland and no legal proceedings were currently underway in that country.
When the bench asked Awan about steps being taken by the government to bring back to Pakistan the USD 60 million that were allegedly laundered by Zardari through Swiss bank accounts, the minister said reports in this regard were "exaggerated" and were not based on facts.
Asked by the judges as to who controlled the accounts containing millions of dollars that were frozen by Swiss authorities, Awan replied he had no information in this regard.
Awan told the court he intended to travel abroad in the coming days and sought more time to present the government`s viewpoint. He also asked the court to examine certain relevant documents.
Following this, the bench adjourned the matter till June 10.
The apex court had initiated a suo motu case over the government`s failure to fully implement its verdict annulling the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a graft amnesty issued by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007 as part of a secret understanding with slain PPP chief Benazir Bhutto.
Since it struck down the graft amnesty last year, the apex court has been pressing the government to take action against Zardari, one of the key beneficiaries of the NRO.
The graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland and other countries were closed by Musharraf`s regime under the NRO. However, the government has maintained that it will not reopen the cases against the President as he enjoys immunity under the Constitution.
Against the backdrop of speculation about a face-off between the ruling PPP and Supreme Court, Awan told the bench that the government does not desire any sort of confrontation with the judiciary. The government respects the law, judiciary and its verdicts, Awan said.
He outlined nine steps taken by the government to implement the apex court`s verdict striking down the NRO. An official proposal for action against former Attorney General Malik Qayyum has been sent to the Prime Minister and the prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau
(NAB), Pakistan`s anti-corruption agency, has been removed in line with the court`s order, he said.
The number of prosecutors is being increased and the apex court`s order to replace the Chairman of NAB will be implemented in "weeks, not months," Awan said.
The government will not ignore the Supreme Court`s orders on the Swiss cases and it has already implemented other verdicts by the court, including rulings scrapping an LNG contract and the promotions of 54 bureaucrats, he added.
Awan, who was accompanied by several members of the Cabinet during his appearance in the packed court room, told reporters: "The rumours (about a confrontation between the executive and the judiciary) have now died.”
"There will not be any confrontation between institutions in Pakistan."
The government presented its views in a relevant manner while showing respect for the judiciary and the judges were "receptive and magnanimous”, Awan said.
He added that the bench had said that the minister did not need to appear in court again.
Awan also said the court had accepted his request that the government should be allowed to present its views in the matter in the form of a concise statement.
"Certain aspects of the case that were not known till now were highlighted by me and the court was very receptive," he said.