Pak SC may take up legal challenges against NRO next week

Islamabad: Adding to woes of President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's Supreme Court is expected to take up next week legal challenges to the amnesty granted to him and thousands of other people in graft cases under a controversial law which lapsed three days back.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is likely to constitute a special bench of the apex court next week to decide the fate of the people granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

The NRO, which expired on November 28, was issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf two years ago to scrap corruption cases filed against Zardari, his slain wife former premier Benazir Bhutto and other politicians and bureaucrats between 1986 and 1999.

Figures provided recently by the government showed that over 8,000 people benefited from the NRO.

The NRO lapsed last week after the PPP-led government failed to get it ratified by Parliament in line with an order issued by the Supreme Court.

A majority of legal experts believe that pending petitions challenging the NRO could be taken up for hearing next week, the 'Daily Times' newspaper reported today.

Petitions against the NRO have been filed in the apex court by former finance minister Mubashar Hassan and retired bureaucrat Reodad Khan.

Legal experts said after the NRO's lapse, pending petitions that challenged the law's validity were a constant worry for beneficiaries as the cases could be revived against them if the apex court declared the ordinance unconstitutional.

However, Zardari has said that he enjoys constitutional immunity by virtue of being the President and cases against him could not be taken up as long as he remains in the post.

In February last year, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, who was appointed by Musharraf, vacated an earlier apex court order freezing some sections of the NRO and allowed beneficiaries of the law to enjoy immunity in graft cases.