SC urged to refer case to parliament
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is refusing to budge an inch on the issue of writing letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases which also involved President Asif Ali Zardari. In a reply to the Supreme Court on Monday, he said the state of Pakistan could not surrender its president for trial by a foreign magistrate.
In a two-pronged defence, Mr Gilani said the president could not be tried in a foreign court and that the issue of president’s immunity was of public concern and, therefore, it should be referred to parliament.
If at all the court does propose to expose the incumbent president to prosecution before a western magistrate, the prime minister suggested, the issue being a matter of grave public concern should be sent to parliament for a decision as was done in the case of 18th Amendment on appointments in higher judiciary and parliamentary oversight.
In the same breath, the prime minister also expressed apprehensions that he would not get a fair trial from a seven-judge bench seized with the contempt case and said it seemed that the court had made up its mind before the conclusion of the trial.
The court will resume on Wednesday the hearing of contempt charges against the prime minister for not pursuing money-laundering cases in Switzerland that also involved President Zardari. He was required to submit a reply about his intention of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases of $60 million stashed in Swiss banks.
At the last hearing on March 8, a seven-judge bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk had asked Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to convey to the prime minister its directive to implement the NRO judgment and submit a report by March 21.
“I believe that the sovereign state of Pakistan cannot, must not and should not offer its incumbent head of state, symbol of the federation (Article 41), the most prominent component of parliament (Article 50) and the supreme commander of its armed forces (Article 243) for a criminal trial in the court of a foreign magistrate, during the term of his office,” the prime minister said in his reply submitted by his counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan.
“People are and must remain the highest worldly sovereign in this country; they are judges of the last resort in this world and that will be the best course of action and also be according to the sixth option formulated by the court itself,” the reply said, adding that if the court ordered the prime minister to write letters regardless of any arguments, it would be prejudging and making it a serious case of mistrial.
The reply also took a gentle potshot at the judges as it expressed the ‘hurt’ of the prime minister.
It also mentioned the six options outlined by a different five-judge bench in its Jan 10 order. “I cannot understand, with all respect and humility, why the most coercive option has been selected by this court and for what reasons,” the prime minister asked. He regretted that no justification appeared to have been provided by the court for selecting the option of initiating a contempt case against the prime minister.
“The ultimate judges of prime minister’s fate and reputation will still be the people of Pakistan who were referred to in the sixth option,” the reply said, adding that as he submitted to this court so he would also in the manner expressed by the court in the sixth option surrender to the judgment of the people at an appropriate time.
The prime minister also mentioned how being declared innocent he still had to spend five years in jail in two NAB references.
“Many times the offer of a favourable ‘plea bargain’ was made to me but I refused. I was as confident of my innocence then, as I am today,” he said.
The prime minister explained how he kept a very busy schedule. He referred to the massive Rs6,500 billion 2G cellular phone scam in neighbouring India and recalled how the Supreme Court of India exonerated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on account of absence of proof of actual knowledge about the scandal.
“I believe that the system in India, including the practice of governance and the rules for conducting government are similar in our country,” Mr Gilani said, adding that the buck was therefore seen to have stopped before reaching the prime minister, but here it was being presumed, without basis to be otherwise.