ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party believes that after the Swiss authorities’ refusal to open a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari there is no case pending against its co-chairman in any court.
“There is no case pending against the president in the country,” Law Minister Farooq Naek told Dawn on Sunday.
He said three cases involving President Zardari were being tried in the country and in all of them he was not the main accused, but one of the beneficiaries. “The main accused in these cases was Ilyas Siddiqui and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was cited as a beneficiary but Mr Siddiqui was acquitted of the charges and after the death of Ms Bhutto cases involving her became redundant,” he said.
He cited a judgment of Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench and said: “In a case I was pursuing for a former chairman of the Capital Development Authority, Shafi Sehwani, the court had issued a judgment that if the main accused in the case had been acquitted than there was no question of trying the beneficiaries.”
The minister said that on the basis of evidence presented in the courts, President Zardari was cited as one of the beneficiaries in money-laundering cases tried simultaneously in a Swiss court and local courts. Secondly, he said, Section 248 of the Constitution provided immunity to the incumbent president. If the claim of the minister is accepted by the courts which are trying the cases, President Zardari will face no problem even after leaving the office of president.
However, an official of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said he believed cases against the president could be reopened after he left the office because he enjoyed immunity under the Constitution only till he was in office and not after that.
It may be mentioned that the government and lawyers of President Zardari had never pleaded in the Supreme Court that there was no case pending against him as a beneficiary of money laundering. They always referred to Section 248 which concerned his immunity.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was removed by the Supreme Court for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening cases against President Zardari, had also referred to presidential immunity.
Replying to a question, the NAB official said the record of the Swiss cases, reportedly in 12 boxes, was under the bureau’s secure custody and could be used if the cases were reopened after the end of the president’s tenure.
But the law minister said the record had become redundant. “Actually, it was not any precious record but photocopies of court orders that were already available with NAB,” he said.