Pak asks Switzerland to revive graft cases against Zardari



Islamabad: Pakistan has dispatched an official letter asking Swiss authorities to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari on the condition that such a move will be linked to the international immunity available to the head of state.

The government has written the letter to Swiss authorities in the light of the Supreme Court's directions and it was sent to Switzerland through the Foreign Office on Monday, state-run media reported today.

The letter was written in line with the apex court's orders and its text was the same as that agreed to by the court and Law Minister Farooq Naek, Radio Pakistan reported.

On October 10, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court approved the draft of the letter after examining it behind closed doors.

The draft letter made it clear that any proceedings in Switzerland would be conditional to the immunity provided to the President by the Constitution and Pakistani and international laws.

The breakthrough came after weeks of sparring between the apex court and the government's legal team over the contents of the letter. The government was time given till November 10 to send the letter to Switzerland.

The government will now have to inform the court that the letter has been received by Swiss authorities.

A draft of the letter released by the Supreme Court last month states that a letter sent to Swiss authorities in May 2008 by then Attorney General Malik Qayyum to close graft cases against Zardari would be revoked.

The draft stated that the "aforesaid letter is hereby withdrawn and may be treated as never written and therefore revival of requests, status and claims, is sought".

It added: "This is without prejudice to the legal rights and defences of the Presidents/Heads of State which may be available under the law, constitution and international law."

Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, were accused of laundering millions of dollars through Swiss banks.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive the cases against the President since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The government refused to act for months before Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf agreed to implement the apex court's orders after he was charged with contempt.

Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was convicted of contempt and disqualified in June for refusing to reopen the cases against Zardari.

PTI