Swiss cases against Zardari may lead to constitutional showdown

September 25th, 2010 - 4:56 pm ICT by ANI  

Nawaz Sharif Islamabad, Sep 25 (ANI): The apex court’s decision to reopen Swiss cases against President Asif Ali Zardari has become a major bone of contention between the incumbent government and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which may eventually lead to a constitutional showdown.

The apex court had directed the law secretary to move a summary on reopening the Swiss cases to the prime minister by September 24.

However, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani defended Zardari by saying that he enjoys immunity under Article 248 of the constitution.

He said that while the government respected court orders, but the constitution had conferred upon it some powers, adding that it was up to parliament and its elected members of the National Assembly and Senate, to decide what powers were to be retained and what to be withdrawn.

“What is parliament if not the president, PM and both houses,” Gilani asked, pointing out parliament would become incomplete in absence of even one of these components.

On the other side, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has warned the federal government that if it fails to implement the SC’s verdict annulling the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) “in letter and spirit”, the apex court will be forced to take “some decision,” the Daily Times reported.

The government is not left with many choices at the moment, says an editorial in a leading Pakistani newspaper, noting that either there will be a head-on collision between the government and the SC, or the letter must be sent.

If the PPP-led government does not want to risk a breakdown of the system, it should comply with the apex court’s orders, since the SC is adamant that the government must implement the verdicts in any case, says the Daily Times editorial, adding that the ball will be in the Swiss authorities’ court once a letter from the government is sent to them.

According to The Nation, after a meeting with Gilani, Zardari has reportedly finalised a list of 242 beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), who would be shown the exit doors, in a bid to end the issue while keeping the president out of the loop.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif has made it clear that he would stand by the SC on the issue.

“(The) Supreme Court will decide about the immunity to the president. We are with the SC and not the government on the issue of the NRO… I am not prepared to support corruption in the garb of democracy,” The News quoted Nawaz, as saying.

Respected legal minds in the country describe the immunity phenomenon as protection to the head of state for acts done in good faith.

“At present, the Supreme Court has not given any direct verdict on presidential immunity regarding corruption cases within the country and abroad but it is likely that the court would give a judgment on article 248 regarding the Swiss cases issue of the President,” Retired Justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui said.

Noted jurist Barrister Zafarullah gave an example that if a president orders that poison be added to the drinking water of a particular city and thousands of people die of that poison, then which law of the world could provide immunity to that president?

Therefore, the issue of immunity prevails for the functions in discharge of his duties as president, he said, adding that America has a similar provision but President Bill Clinton and President Richard Nixon were tried in courts. (ANI)

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