‘Parl, not PM decides on Presidential immunity’

Last Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 19:42

Lahore: Facing immense pressure from Pakistan
Supreme Court to reopen the graft cases against the President,
embattled Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said he would go by
the Constitution on the issue, while asserting that Parliament
was the only authority to decide on the Presidential immunity.

Gilani, who has been given a March 21 ultimatum by the
Supreme Court to write to Swiss authorities to revive the
graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, said he did
not deserve to be charged with a contempt case and the matter
should have been left to Parliament to decide.

"Had we wanted to write the letter (to Swiss authorities
about reopening the cases against the President), we would
have done it a long time ago. I will follow the Constitution
of Pakistan as it gives immunity to the office of the
President," Gilani said.

"All over the world there is immunity for the President,
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister as long as they are in
office. I have no prerogative to decide the immunity of the
President. It rests with the Parliament," he said while
talking to a group of journalists here.

Gilani was responding to questions about the apex court`s
March 8 order directing him to write to Swiss authorities on
reviving graft cases against Zardari.

Significantly, the court said he should act without
waiting to consult his legal advisers.

The court issued the directive while hearing a case
regarding the implementation of an order striking down the
National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued by
former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited Zardari
and over 8,000 others.

The apex court is separately hearing a contempt case
against Gilani for failing to act on its repeated orders to
revive the cases against Zardari.

The court has observed that the contempt proceedings
should not affect the implementation of its order on the graft
amnesty.

Gilani told the journalists: "Had I been the Chief Justice
of Pakistan, I would have referred the matter of immunity to
Parliament.

"I am facing contempt of court. It would have been better
if the court charged the parliament with contempt for granting
immunity to the President".

The Parliament recently passed three constitutional
amendments with far-reaching implications but did not deem it
necessary to waive the immunity of the President, he pointed
out.

"I am a small man who is following the Constitution," he
added.

Gilani said nobody had the authority to rewrite the
Constitution.

"Only the Parliament has the authority to do so," he
remarked.

Earlier in the day, Gilani said during a separate
interaction with the media that there were two cases before
the Supreme Court which the media had mixed up.
In one of these, he did not even have a lawyer.

He questioned whether the court`s order to approach Swiss
authorities without consulting his legal aides meant he should
act on the court`s advice.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to
reopen the cases in Switzerland since December 2009, when it
struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance that was
issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

The government has refused to act, saying the President
enjoys complete immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and
abroad.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 12:43

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