Zardari graft case: Law minister to appear before Supreme Court Tuesday


Islamabad : Pakistan’s law minister is to appear before the Supreme Court to explain why he has not carried out its directive to reopen a $60 million Swiss money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

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The court has ordered the government to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the case that was closed after the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). This was after it declared the amnesty against graft unconstitutional Dec 16, 2009.

Given that Law Minister Babar Awan has consistently been saying that the letter could not be written as the president enjoyed immunity from prosecution, the court has now summoned him to explain the matter in person, Online news agency reported.

A five-member bench headed by Justice Nasir ul Mulk is hearing the issue of implementing the NRO verdict.

The court has also issued clear instructions to Islamabad’s chief commissioner and inspector general of police to ensure no untoward incidents occur when Awan appears before it.

Strict security measures have been employed for Tuesday’s hearing, with extra contingents of paramilitary Rangers and police being deployed in Islamabad’s Red Zone area where the court is located.

Limited passes have been issued to the media for covering the hearing. Additional closed-circuit TV cameras have also been installed in the Supreme Court.

At a strategy dinner here Friday night, the government decided to tell the court that the case against Zardari could not be reopened as he enjoys presidential immunity.

Former president Pervez Musharraf had promulgated the NRO in October 2007 primarily to enable former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Zardari, to return home. Some 250 other politicians, bureaucrats and armed forces officers had also benefited from the NRO.

Ever since the Supreme Court verdict on the NRO, the government has been ambivalent on the Zardari case, not saying in as many words whether or not it would be reopened.

According to The News, Awan, “who was the author of the strategy”, briefed the dinner meeting about the government’s view that is to be taken before the Supreme Court.

The dinner, hosted by Zardari, was attended by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the cabinet ministers belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party that leads the ruling coalition.