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Swiss govt refuses to reopen cases against President Zardari

10 February, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: In a much-expected sigh of relief for President Asif Ali Zardari, the Swiss authorities have informed the Pakistan government that they cannot reopen graft cases against the country's constitutional head.

The government had sent a letter seeking the reopening of graft cases to the Swiss authorities last November, after a breakthrough following weeks of sparring between the apex court and the government's legal team over the contents of the letter.

Sources in the federal law ministry said Swiss government, in an official response sent to the Pakistan government this week, had expressed its inability to reopen cases as President Zardari, as head of state, enjoyed immunity against all criminal charges under the international laws.

The letter sent to Swiss Attorney General through the Foreign Office on November 5 had claimed immunity for president from criminal charges under the constitution of Pakistan and international laws.

The letter signed by federal law secretary Justice (R) Yasmin Abbasey read: "This is with reference to the letter dated 22nd May 2008 addressed by Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the then Attorney General of Pakistan to Mr. Daniel Zappelli, Attorney General, Geneva, Switzerland. In view of the directions given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Paragraph 178 (copy attached as Annex-I) of its Judgment dated 16th December 2009 in the case of Dr Mobashir Hasan, reported as PLD 2010 SC 265, the aforesaid letter is hereby withdrawn and may be treated as never written and therefore revival of requests, status and claims, is sought. 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."

The two-year standoff between the Pakistan People's Party government and the Supreme Court over writing letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases had cost former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani his job last year. The judiciary-executive confrontation came to an end when Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, in September last year, told the apex court that government was ready to write the letter.

Gilani has recently filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against his disqualification. The Supreme Court had been pressuring the government to restore graft cases against President Zardari since December 2009, when it overthrew a graft amnesty issued by former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf. Soon after the NRO was promulgated, former attorney general Malik Qayyum had asked the Swiss authorities to close graft cases against Zardari.

Swiss legal experts had already opined that due to the expiration of a statute of limitation on the charges in Switzerland and Zardari's presidential immunity, the chances of a new prosecution were slim, at least while Zardari remained in office.


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