‘Pak SC verdicts will be implemented in letter and spirit’

Islamabad: A day after Pakistan's Supreme Court gave the April 5 deadline to government to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Asif Ali Zardari, the President's spokesman today said all verdicts of the apex court will be implemented in letter and spirit.

"All the verdicts of the Supreme Court will be implemented in letter and spirit as was done in the past," Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Referring to the apex court's order striking down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a graft amnesty that benefited Zardari and thousands of others, Babar told the media: "We are implementing all verdicts of the Supreme Court in letter and spirit and 150 cases have been opened since the verdict on the NRO and ministers are facing courts."

Asked about Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan's statement that Law Minister Babar Awan was creating hurdles in implementing the apex court's order to reopen cases that were quashed under the NRO issued by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf, Babar said: "We cannot comment on the situation until the point of view of the other side is not heard."

In response to another question, he said the records of the graft cases in Switzerland might be in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country's anti-corruption agency.

Babar said it was a false impression that anyone would try to influence the working of NAB, which is an independent body and "would function independently as it had done in the past."

Zardari and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, were found guilty in absentia by a Geneva court in 2003 of laundering millions of dollars. They were given six-month sentences and fined but both punishments were suspended when they appealed.

Swiss authorities abandoned the cases against them in 2008 after the Pakistani authorities asked them to.

The cases were among over 8,000 anti-corruption cases that were closed under the NRO, which was issued by Musharraf as part of a secret arrangement with Bhutto in 2007.

Zardari in soup as SC sets time limit

Tightening its noose around President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan Supreme Court (SC) has given five days time and directed the Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan to clear all roadblocks in the way of reopening of the money laundering cases against Zardari in Swiss court.

Hearing a suo motu notice on examining the implementation of the apex court’s verdict declaring the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as null and void, a seven member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to send a new letter to the Swiss government to reopen the corruption cases against Zardari.

Terming the previous letter to the Swiss government in this regard as ‘unsatisfactory, the court observed that the letter should have been routed through the Law Ministry and approved by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Speaking during the hearing, Khan told the court that he was facing problems in getting hold of records, particularly the ones related to the Swiss cases, for the implementation of the NRO verdict.

He also said that Law Minister Babar Awan was ‘obstructing’ the process of reopening cases against Zardari.

Hearing Khan’s statement, the chief justice summoned the law secretary, saying Awan could also be summoned if the secretary fails to satisfy the court. It may be noted that Swiss Prosecutor General, Daniel Zappelli, had denied reopening cases against the Pakistan President , saying the money laundering cases against Zardari could not be reopened as he enjoys immunity under the country’s Constitution.

“Zardari cannot be prosecuted in Switzerland because Pakistan’s constitution grants him immunity as a head of state,” said Daniel Zappelli, who had decided to close the case in Switzerland against Zardari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in August 2008.

Zappeli made it clear that Geneva cannot reopen cases against Zardari until Pakistani authorities remove the amnesty granted to the President.

“We could go further only if the competent authorities in Pakistan decide to lift the immunity of the head of state, which I do not know whether it is possible according to their constitution. If not, we can’t. Absolutely not,” he had said.

ANI (with PTI inputs)