Pak SC rejects govt move to defer hearing against Zardari

The bench said the review petition would be taken up as scheduled on Oct 13.

Updated: Oct 11, 2010, 14:57 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Supreme Court on Monday rejected the government`s plea to defer the hearing of a petition seeking review of the verdict annulling a graft amnesty that benefited President Asif Ali Zardari, saying the administration did not appear to be serious about the issue.

The government filed an application last week seeking the adjournment of the hearing of the review petition as it needed time to file a new counsel for the case.

Kamal Azfar, the government`s lawyer for the case, was recently appointed an advisor to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry rejected the government`s plea seeking more time to change the counsel.

The bench said the review petition would be taken up as scheduled on October 13 by a 17-judge bench.

The bench said there was no justification for the government`s request for the case to be adjourned.

The government did not appear to be serious about the matter and was making lame excuses, it said.

The bench noted that the notification issued for Azfar`s appointment as an advisor to the Prime Minister was issued on Sunday and the government machinery had been specially mobilised for this.

Salman Akram Raja, a lawyer who approached the apex court to enforce its ruling striking down the graft amnesty known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, told the media that the government`s move to appoint Azfar an advisor on disaster management was "ridiculous" and "nothing but a delaying tactic".

Since the apex court struck down the NRO last year, it has mounted pressure on the government to implement the ruling.

After the court initiated suo moto proceedings to enforce the verdict, the government recently filed an application saying the implementation of the ruling should be taken up after the court decided the government`s petition seeking a review of the verdict.

The ruling Pakistan People`s Party has refused to implement the apex court`s order to reopen graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland, saying the President enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution under the Constitution.

The government has also refused to write to Swiss authorities to revive cases related to the alleged laundering of USD 60 million by Zardari.

The cases were closed during the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who promulgated the NRO as part of a secret understanding with the PPP in 2007.

Experts have said the apex court`s move to enforce its verdict annulling the NRO could lead to a destabilising stand-off between the executive and the judiciary.

The NRO benefited over 8,000 people, including several of Zardari`s aides, federal ministers including Interior Minister Rehman Malik and senior bureaucrats.