Reopen graft cases against President Zardari: Pak SC



Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday directed the country's anti-corruption watchddog to reopen graft cases against Asif Ali Zardari and 8,000 others that were quashed under the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance, a move likely to further weaken his hold on the presidency.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal directed the National Accountability of Bureau to implement its verdict to reopen cases that were quashed under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, promulgated by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007.

The bench also directed the bureau to protect all records related to NRO cases.

The bench also expressed its dissatisfaction at a report submitted by NAB on the reopening of cases.

NAB was directed by the judges to submit a report regarding the appointment of prosecutors for these cases.

Justice Iqbal remarked that whatever was decided by the apex court "must be implemented in letter and spirit".

He said all institutions are bound to implement the apex court's orders under constitutional provisions.

Noting that certain media reports had claimed that efforts were being made to tamper with the records of NRO-related cases, damage evidence and replace certain records. He directed authorities to protect these records.

NAB’s acting chairman Irfan Nadeem told the bench that his organisation had sought guidance from the law ministry on the immunity enjoyed by the President.

The ministry had, in turn, asked the Attorney General for guidance, Nadeem said.

The bench observed that the apex court had the authority to interpret constitutional provisions and if there was immunity for anyone, the court must be informed in writing about those who enjoyed such immunity.

Justice Iqbal also questioned when this game of "hide and seek" would end.

The bench adjourned the matter for two weeks on the request of the NAB official, who sought time for filing a detailed report.

The Supreme Court annulled the NRO, which was promulgated by the former military ruler as part of a secret understanding with the Pakistan People’s Party.

Over 8,000 people, including Zardari and several of his close aides, benefited from the graft amnesty.

After striking down the NRO, the apex court directed the PPP-led government to reopen all cases quashed under the amnesty, including money laundering cases registered against Zardari in Switzerland that were closed in 2008.

On February 19, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had given the NAB a "last chance" to implement its directions regarding the reopening of the cases.

However, Zardari's aides have said he enjoys immunity from prosecution by virtue of being President.

PTI