PPP may ask Swiss to revive graft cases

Last Updated: Saturday, January 14, 2012 - 15:57

Lahore: The ruling Pakistan People`s Party
has started deliberations on writing to Swiss authorities for
reviving graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in a
bid to deflect growing pressure on the government from the
Supreme Court.

Days before a bench of the apex court begins hearing
the case related to the reopening of corruption cases against
Zardari and 8,000 others, the National Accountability Bureau
yesterday arrested three top bureaucrats who benefited from a
graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf
in 2007.
The PPP`s top leadership, in its last meeting, had
reiterated that the President had immunity from prosecution
under the constitution and the government would not write to
Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money laundering
against Zardari.

However, following the Supreme Court`s warning that
it could act against the President and Prime Minister for
failing to revive the corruption cases, the PPP`s top
leadership has been advised by some of its coalition partners
and senior PPP leaders to give a second thought to approaching
the Swiss authorities, sources told agency.

The graft cases against Zardari and the others were
closed under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)
issued by Musharraf.

The apex court struck down the NRO in 2009 and has
been pressuring the government to revive these cases.

A larger bench of the Supreme Court will resume hearing
the NRO issue on January 16 and the judges has expected to
give a decisive ruling.
There is speculation that the court may ask the military,
which too is engaged in a standoff with the government, to
help implement its verdicts.

According to a lawyer who is part of the PPP`s legal
team, the party leadership has finally agreed to start
discussing the pros and cons of writing a letter to the Swiss
authorities.

"The leadership has asked Senate Chairman Farooq H
Naek, Punjab Governor Latif Khosa, Law Minister Moula Bakhsh
Chandio, former law minister Babar Awan and senior leader
Aitzaz Ahsan to give their inputs about writing the letter,"
said the lawyer who did not wish to be named.

Naek, Khosa, Awan and Ahsan are among Pakistan`s leading
lawyers and have often advised the PPP?s top leadership on
legal matters.

The lawyer further said that as pressure continued
to mount on the government for reopening the corruption cases
closed under NRO, there might be a situation in the coming
days when the PPP is left with no option but to write the
letter to Swiss authorities.
He said there was a section of PPP lawyers which is
in favour of writing the letter as it believed there would be
no legal implications for the President.

"Many in the party think it will be a mere formality
but the government`s gesture will calm down the apex court,"
he said.

The hawks in the PPP, however, are against writing
the letter.

They are of the view that the government`s act will
amount to a "trial of former premier Benazir Bhutto`s grave"
and cause "huge embarrassment" to the government and
President.

Bhutto was among the beneficiaries of the NRO.

Supreme Court`s lawyer Khurram Latif Khosa said the
Swiss Attorney General had already informed the Pakistan
government that Swiss authorities could not try a person who
had diplomatic or constitutional immunity.

"In this situation, there will be no outcome of the
inquiry against the President and we wonder why the apex court
is pressing the government to write a letter to Swiss
authorities despite having a complete knowledge of the
immunity the constitution gives to the President," he said.

Khosa said the Supreme Court had directed all departments
to follow the law and the Constitution and what the government
was doing in the issue came absolutely under the ambit of the
law and the Constitution.

"Legally speaking, writing the letter to the Swiss
authorities will be a futile exercise. It will, in fact, be an
embarrassment for the whole nation as the world will laugh at
us," Khosa said.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012 - 15:57

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