In a climbdown of sorts, the Pakistani government on Tuesday sought time from the Supreme Court to inform it about the fate of a $60 million Swiss money laundering case involving President Asif Ali Zardari.
"I have just got the 300-page Swiss Procedure Code from the federal government and need time to properly assist the court on this aspect," Dawn.com quoted counsel Kamal Azfar as telling a 17-judge full court hearing of a government petition. The petition sought review of the Dec 16, 2009, Supreme Court verdict declaring the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), an amnesty against graft, illegal and unconstitutional.
The government has hitherto being saying that Zardari enjoyed presidential immunity from prosecution.
Azfar said he would also like to submit documents relating to the outcome of graft cases in Swiss courts against presidents of other countries.
Azfar's plea came when Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry expressed his readiness to hear the federal government’s review petition first and observed that whatever came out of it would also have effect on other review petitions on the NRO judgment.
The court accepted the plea and adjourned the hearing till June 7, subject to availability of the full court.
While striking down the NRO, the Supreme Court had ordered that cases against all the 250-odd politicians, bureaucrats and armed forces officers that had been closed under it be revived.
While the other cases are slowly being reopened, the government says it cannot move against Zardari because he enjoys presidential immunity.
This was reiterated at a strategy dinner, hosted here Friday by Zardari and attended by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the cabinet ministers belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party that leads the ruling coalition.
Former president Pervez Musharraf had promulgated the NRO in October 2007 primarily to enable former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Zardari, to return home.
Bhutto was killed Dec 27, 2007 in a gun and bomb attack as she left a political rally in the adjacent garrison town of Rawalpindi.