Pakistani PM gets time till Aug 8 to write to Swiss powers (Lead)

July 25th, 2012 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, July 25 (IANS) Pakistan’s Supreme Court Wednesday gave Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf time up to Aug 8 to write to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The apex court had earlier set July 25 deadline for the prime minister to approach the Swiss authorities to reopen the corruption cases, Xinhua reported.

Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by the court for contempt after he refused to accept the court’s orders.

Attorney General Altaf Qadir Wednesday sought more time to file a review petition against the court’s July 12 verdict, which had set July 25 as the deadline.

Accepting the attorney general’s plea, a five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa adjourned the hearing till Aug 8 and directed Ashraf to write the letter to the Swiss authorities.

The court also asked the attorney general to file a review petition against its July 12 order.

Accused of graft, Zardari was granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return home from exile, and primarily that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Zardari and Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.

The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.

The apex court in January ordered Gilani to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.

Gilani was convicted April 26 of contempt of court, and was disqualified as prime minister as well as parliament member June 19.

The court, however, sentenced him only “until the rising of the court”, or till the time the judges left the court chamber. That was only for about 30 seconds after the guilty verdict was handed down to Gilani.

Official sources told Xinhua the prime minister has discussed the issue with the president and cabinet colleagues, particularly the law minister, but it seems the government does not intend to change its position that the president enjoys constitutional immunity and therefore Swiss authorities cannot be asked to reopen graft cases against him.

The apex court’s anti-corruption department had earlier revealed that nearly $60 million have been transferred to Swiss banks illegally and the money must be returned.

Justice Khosa said Wednesday that the court was also not in favour of sending the prime minister home, and the government needs to think of ways to come out of the issue.

He said the court has taken a certain position in the graft case and that it cannot be readjusted. It was possible only in the case of politics.

The court said bridging the gap between two state organs was not impossible, and that there was a false tension among the institutions. The court hoped a workable solution would be sorted out.

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