Zardari can`t presume immunity: Pak Chief Justice

Last Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 20:20

Islamabad: Pakistan Supreme Court has told
the government that President Asif Ali Zardari cannot avoid
proceedings in the memogate case by presuming that he enjoys
immunity under the Constitution.

"Immunity does not come into play by itself. It will have
to be sought (from the court)," Chief Justice of Pakistan
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry sternly told Attorney General
Maulvi Anwarul Haq yesterday, reminding him of the court order
seeking the president`s reply, The Express Tribune Daily said.

Article 248 of the Pakistani Constitution almost gives
immunity to the President from court proceedings.

The nine-judge bench also asked the attorney general to
ensure the federal government submits responses to the replies
of army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Director General of
ISI Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Pakistani-American businessman
Mansoor Ijaz and former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani.

Haq explained that he was in the process of filing the
affidavits sought by the court and would require till Friday
(today) to submit the federal government`s reply.

President Zardari is yet to file his reply to a series of
petitions being heard by the apex court in connection with the
memogate scandal that has brought out the fissures between the
government and the powerful security establishment.

The bench suggested nominating a sitting judge of the
Supreme Court to probe the scandal, but shelved it after Asma
Jehangir, Haqqani`s counsel, raised objections, the report
said.

Referring to the political overtones of the case, Jehangir
said the scandal raised several questions: Who leaked the
memo, what was its background and were the rumours of a coup
true?

She added that Ijaz`s claim that the ISI and the army were
hatching conspiracies against the government should not be
ignored.

The Chief Justice observed the court had been mindful of
the maintainability of the petitions but it could also not
ignore the element of "civil liability and criminal
culpability" in the case.

Both Pakistani government and the powerful security
establishment have taken directly opposite stand in the case.

While the government does not want the apex court to order
any probe saying it will do the same, the army and the ISI
want the Supreme Court to go in for a thorough investigation.

The scandal revolves around a secret memo that had sought
the US help to prevent a possible coup in the wake of the
killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May.

The government has said that Zardari or Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani had played no role in drafting or
delivering the memo to the then US military chief Admiral Mike
Mullen.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 20:20

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