No case can be initiated against Zardari in Swiss court: law ministry
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: Giving rise to fresh fears of a possible confrontation between the government and judiciary, the law ministry sent to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday a summary suggesting that no case could be initiated against President Asif Ali Zardari in Swiss courts.
Legal experts are of the opinion that the summary, which was sent to the prime minister on the orders of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, may trigger another row between the judiciary and the government because the chief justice wants a letter sent to the Swiss authorities for reinitiating the alleged money-laundering case against the president.
The Supreme Court will hear a case relating to implementation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance on Friday.
Law Minister Babar Awan told Dawn that the law was on the government side. “Corruption cases against him (president) are past and a close transaction. Even the case in Swiss court was time-barred and, therefore, it is not advisable to write letter to the Swiss authorities.”
He said the government was duty bound to act in accordance with the law and the Constitution. “Our position is the same as I raised when I appeared before a five-member bench of the court in person in the NRO implementation case,” he added.
He said the summary prepared by the law secretary was based on legal, constitutional and factual position. “It is a bulky document elaborating all constitutional and legal provisions.”
The case against President Zardari had been withdrawn from the Swiss court under the 2007 NRO during the Musharraf government, but it remained pending in an accountability court in Rawalpindi. The president was accused in the case of taking kickbacks and the money was deposited in Swiss banks. The case was revived after the Supreme Court scrapped NRO.
Legal experts hold differing views on the revival of the case. Some argue that the president enjoys immunity because of his position, while others are of the opinion that the case dated back to a time when he was not president and, therefore, the immunity enjoyed by him under the Constitution does not apply.
The law minister said the president had been facing cases for 15 years and no charge had been proved against him.
Mr Awan said the president was the supreme commander of the armed forces and was an ‘indivisible’ part of parliament.
Pakistan People’s Party leaders have said that being president of the country, Mr Zardari enjoys immunity and no case can be tried against him inside and outside the country.
This view has been substantiated by Swiss Attorney General Daniel Zappelli who said in an interview in April this year that the alleged money-laundering case against President Zardari could not be reopened in Swiss courts. He said that since President Zardari had enjoyed immunity under international law, Swiss courts could not entertain any request to reopen the cases against him. The Swiss attorney general also said that even if the Swiss authorities received a proper request from Pakistan with all the required stances through an official channel, the Swiss government could not reopen the cases.