Blow to Zardari as letter closing graft cases to be revoked



Blow to Zardari as letter closing graft cases to be revoked Islamabad: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the government has decided to withdraw a letter sent out during Pervez Musharraf's tenure to close graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, a move that may lead to reopening of the corruption cases.

The court gave the Prime Minister time till Sep 25 to write to Swiss authorities to reopen the corruption cases.

A five-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, heard the show-cause notice for contempt of court against Ashraf over the NRO implementation case.

Ashraf, who stepped into the shoes of Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified for contempt when he refused to accept the court's orders, said the government has decided to withdraw ex-attorney general Malik Qayyum's letter that was written to the Swiss authorities during then president Pervez Musharraf's tenure.

The Prime Minister Tuesday appeared before the Supreme Court, which had last month given him three-weeks' time to write to Swiss authorities on reopening corruption cases against President Zardari.

Ashraf said he has directed Law Minister Farooq H Naek to withdraw the letter written to Swiss authorities asking for closing of all the cases against Zardari, reported Geo News.

The cases that had been closed by Malik Qayyum's letter can now be reopened by the Swiss authorities if they choose, the media report said.

The court granted the Prime Minister exemption from appearing for the upcoming hearing. Earlier during the hearing, the court ruled that the government must draft the letter by Sep 25.

Justice Khosa appreciated Ashraf's efforts for the resolution of the longstanding issue.

The bench, however, said that time for consultations was over and now the government should focus on writing the letter, reported Dawn.

Justice Khosa told the Prime Minister to write the letter to Swiss authorities and follow four steps: The Prime Minister should authorise someone in writing to write the letter, the content of the letter should satisfy the court, subsequently the letter should be sent and lastly the court should be informed once the letter is sent.

On Aug 27, the Supreme Court had given a three-week reprieve to Ashraf by adjourning the contempt case against him till Sep 18.

The court had July 25 given Ashraf time till Aug 8 to write to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against Zardari.

Accused of graft, Zardari was granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return home from exile, and primarily that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Zardari and Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.

The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.

The apex court in January ordered Gilani to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.

Gilani was convicted April 26 of contempt of court, and was disqualified as prime minister as well as Parliament member June 19.

IANS