name='verify-v1'/>"> MediaTrial: Zardari becomes 1ST accused president of Pakistan!!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zardari becomes 1ST accused president of Pakistan!!

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The Supreme Court’s landmark short order on the National Reconciliation Ordinance, (NRO) although not Asif Ali Zardari-specific, has reduced him into an accused president, whose assets stand frozen and all corruption cases involving $1.7 billion revived to haunt him as the situation was before October 2007.

Much worse is the scenario for Interior Minister Rehman Malik and several others, who immediately become absconders of the law as they were on and before October, 2007. Our interior minister is now prone to be arrested by the police. The judgment raises serious questions over his fitness to continue to be a federal minister as his election as senator becomes controversial because of the revival of his pre-October 5, 2007 standing before the court of law. If not declared convicted in absentia, he was a fugitive of law before his return to Pakistan after several years of self-exile. Was he eligible as a fugitive of law to become the member of parliament?

The apex court neither reflected on the president’s eligibility to become the head of the state nor disqualified him from his office. However, the judgment has really pushed Asif Ali Zardari against the wall as all his cases within Pakistan stand revived to the pre-NRO situation. Though he enjoys constitutional immunity and could not be tried in these revived criminal and corruption cases till the time he is sitting at the Presidency, there is no such protection available to him in the foreign cases that the apex court has directed the federal government to get revived too.

The short order did not discuss any of the NRO beneficiaries including the president but it did make him the accused president. Legally speaking President Zardari can stay at the Presidency because of the constitutional immunity but on moral ground he can’t. Already the demand for his resignation has been voiced and most importantly it comes from the PML-N.

While the Supreme Court has evolved a sound mechanism to monitor the implementation of its order vis-‡-vis the proceedings of the revived cases within Pakistan, in terms of the foreign cases the government has been ordered to take immediate steps to seek revival of these cases and their status.

While declaring the NRO void ab initio, the court regarding the foreign cases said: “Therefore, any actions taken or suffered under the said law are also non est in law and since the communications addressed by Malik Muhammad Qayyum to various foreign fora/authorities/courts withdrawing the requests earlier made by the Government of Pakistan for Mutual Legal Assistance; surrendering the status of Civil Party; abandoning the claims to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland, have also been declared by us to be unauthorised and illegal communications and consequently of no legal effect, therefore, it is declared that the initial requests for Mutual Legal Assistance; securing the status of Civil Party and the claims lodged to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland are declared never to have been withdrawn. Therefore the federal government and other concerned authorities are ordered to take immediate steps to seek revival of the said requests, claims and status.”

Following the apex court’s judgment, the Government of Pakistan would be writing to the foreign courts including Swiss to revive the corruption cases against the president of Pakistan. In the Swiss courts most of the cases, closed following NRO promulgation as a consequence of the request of the Government of Pakistan, were pertaining to the alleged corruption of President Asif Ali Zardari. It would be a unique precedent where a government would be writing to another government for the initiation of corruption cases against its own president.

Spokesman for the PPP and Presidency Farhatullah Babar has welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgment and assured to get it implemented. However, it is yet to be seen if the president would like to be called “accused president” or be summoned by a foreign court on any corruption case pursued by no one else but his own government.

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