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Pak PM recalls amnesty letter for Zardari

Pak PM recalls  amnesty letter for Zardari
The Pakistani prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday that the government had 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 25 September 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.

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 that the government had decided to withdraw the ex-attorney general Malik Qayyum's letter that was written to the Swiss authorities during the then president Musharraf's tenure.


AMNESTY REVOKED, ZARDARI MAY FACE MUSIC

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf informed Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday that the government would revoke a former Attorney General’s letter to Swiss authorities for the closure of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Appearing before a five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa to face a contempt charge for failing to reopen the cases against the President, Ashraf said he had instructed Law Minister Farooq Naek to revoke the letter that was written by former Attorney General Malik Qayyum in late 2007.

With the revocation of the letter written during the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, it will be up to the Swiss authorities to decide whether the cases against Zardari should be reopened, legal experts said.

In late 2007, Qayyum had asked Swiss authorities to close the graft cases against Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, after Musharraf issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that benefited over 8,000 people.

The amnesty was part of a secret deal between Musharraf and Bhutto that facilitated the latter’s return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile.

Ashraf told the bench that he would abide by his commitment to find a solution to the issue of the graft cases.

After reviewing all aspects of the matter, he said he had decided to revoke the letter written by the former Attorney General and asked the Law Minister to take necessary steps.

The premier said he wanted a solution that protects the dignity of both the apex court and the President.

He further said the case involves the position of the President and not Zardari personally, and hoped that the apex court would ‘exercise caution’.

The bench told the premier that the court should be formally intimated after the Swiss Attorney General was informed of the latest developments.

It further said the government should show it the draft of the letter to be sent to the Swiss authorities.

The court also said there should be no more unnecessary delays in the matter and the government should finalise the draft letter in two to three days.

Following a request from Ashraf for more time to draft the letter to be sent to the Swiss authorities, the Supreme Court adjourned the case till 25 September.

The bench also accepted Ashraf’s request to be exempted from future hearings.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing that lasted less than 50 minutes, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the premier had asked the Supreme Court to address the government’s concerns regarding the case.

‘The Prime Minister appeared in court and presented his viewpoint and said he was committed to take steps to resolve the matter,’ he said.

The Law Ministry’s draft letter to the Swiss authorities will be presented to court and then finalised, Kaira said.

‘The matter will be resolved and the atmosphere of uncertainty will end. It is not good for the country’s system if the Prime Minister repeatedly appears in court,’ he added.

This was Ashraf’s second appearance in the apex court to face the contempt charge. He was driven to the main entrance of the apex court in a SUV at around 9 am.

Wearing a grey bandh gala suit, he emerged from the vehicle and waved at his supporters standing outside the building before going inside.

Inside courtroom no 4, Ashraf sat flanked by several federal ministers and leaders of parties in the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan People’s Party.

Shortly before the hearing, federal minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government would take steps to ensure that the country moved towards the holding of the next general election.

‘The government will exercise all options as any confrontation between state institutions will not be good,’ Awan told reporters.
Rezaul H Laskar

Rezaul H Laskar

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