‘Pak`s democratic system facing threat from CIA, Army’
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 00:15
Islamabad: A Pakistan government lawyer on Monday caused consternation in the Supreme Court when he contended that the country's democratic system was facing a threat from the Central Intelligence Agency and the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army.

Lawyer Kamal Azfar made the remarks before a 17-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry that is hearing petitions against an amnesty granted to President Asif Ali Zardari and over 8,000 others under a law that expired last month.

During today's proceedings, the bench asked Azfar to explain apprehensions expressed in a written statement last week that the case had the potential to destabilise the democratic system.

Azfar had claimed that Pakistan was poised at the crossroads, with one road leading to a federal democratic welfare state and the second to destabilisation.

After being grilled by the judges, who insisted he should identify the forces that could destabilise democracy, Azfar said there are extra-constitutional forces within and outside Pakistan that could derail the democratic set-up.

"We have apprehensions (about the) CIA and (army’s) General Headquarters," he said.

The bench then directed the federal government and the law and justice secretary to submit affidavits by tomorrow explaining on whose instructions Azfar had made his submissions in court.

Acting Attorney General Shah Khawar too was asked to explain the government's position. However, Khawar distanced himself from Azfar's remarks, telling reporters that they represented the lawyer's personal views and not those of the government.

Khawar also said the government had made it clear to the apex court that it would not defend the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), the law that granted immunity to people accused of corruption.

Azfar, who is representing the Law Ministry in the case, had said in his statement to the apex court that it should not derail the democratic system while deciding the NRO case.

Legal experts believe Zardari, whose approval ratings have hit rock bottom, could face more problems if the apex court declares the NRO unconstitutional and challenges his eligibility for the post of President.

Zardari has dismissed the corruption charges against him, saying they were "politically motivated and fabricated by the previous military regime". He has maintained that he enjoys immunity from prosecution by virtue of holding the post of President.

Meanwhile, the apex court today accepted senior PML-N leader and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's petition to become party to the NRO case. It also described details provided by the National Accountability Bureau, an anti-corruption watchdog, about Zardari's foreign assets and expenditures on a graft case in Switzerland as incomplete and sought a comprehensive report.

NAB officials told the court that Rs 190 million was paid to Swiss lawyers while Rs 4.1 million was spent on foreign visits by government officials.

The Pakistan government had last year asked the Swiss government to drop the case against Zardari and other accused.

The apex court later adjourned the hearing till tomorrow.


First Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 00:15

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