Letter sent at last to Swiss authorities
ISLAMABAD: The government has finally dispatched a letter to Swiss legal authorities in line with the Supreme Court’s order in the NRO case, seeking revival of a graft case which also involves President Asif Ali Zardari.
Law Minister Farooq Naek told Dawn on Wednesday that the letter addressed to the Swiss attorney general had been sent on Nov 5 through the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s embassy in Switzerland.
Mr Naek said no change had been made in the draft approved by a five-judge SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa during hearing of the NRO judgment implementation case on Oct 10. He said the Supreme Court would be informed about the dispatch of the letter on Thursday morning.
A copy of the letter and the summary of the prime minister’s authorisation to his ministry for writing it would be submitted in the SC in compliance with its order, he said.
“The letter signed by the law secretary has been sent through the Foreign Office to Pakistan’s ambassador in Switzerland with a covering letter to deliver it to the attorney general in Geneva and send us a receipt of confirmation that the letter has been delivered,” he said.
Mr Naek said the sending of the letter had buried for ever allegations that the PPP government did not respect SC’s orders.
Approving the draft presented to it by the law minister, the Supreme Court had given five weeks to the government to send the letter to the Swiss authorities. The next date of hearing is Nov 14 when the minister is required to inform the court about the status of the letter.
Through the letter signed by Law Secretary Justice (retd) Yasmin Abbasey, the government has sought withdrawal of a letter written by former attorney general Malik Abdul Qayyum to his Swiss counterpart Daniel Zappelli on May 22, 2008, telling him that the Pakistan government was withdrawing the mutual legal assistance in the graft case against President Zardari after the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf.
“This is with reference to the letter dated 22nd May, 2008, addressed by Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the then Attorney General of Pakistan to Mr Daniel Zappelli, Attorney General, Geneva, Switzerland.
“In view of the directions given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Paragraph 178 (copy attached as Annex-I) of its judgment dated 16th December, 2009, in the case of Dr Mobashir Hasan, reported as PLD 2010 SC 265, the aforesaid letter is hereby withdrawn and may be treated as never written and, therefore, revival of requests, status and claims, is sought,” says the draft that had been approved by the SC and read out by Justice Khosa in court while dictating the order.
The letter not only asks for reopening of graft cases worth $60 million against the president but also emphasises the legal protection and immunity available to the president without mentioning constitutional provisions.
“This is without prejudice to the legal rights and defences of the presidents/heads of state which may be available under the law, constitution and international law,” it says, highlighting the immunity enjoyed by President Zardari under Article 248 of the Constitution.
It was after 30 painful months that the NRO saga ended for President Zardari when the Supreme Court approved the government’s draft of the letter — after rejecting three previous drafts — it had ordered to be written to the Swiss legal authorities, while hearing the case for the implementation of its verdict in the NRO case.
“We find that the proposed communication conforms to the requirements of paragraph No.178 of the judgment of this court and it also addresses the relevant concerns of the government of Pakistan voiced before this court by the prime minister on Sept 18,” Justice Khosa had observed.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who was disqualified following his conviction on contempt of court charges for not writing the letter told reporters: “I had been stating since the beginning that the president enjoys immunity under the Vienna Convention and Article 248 of the Constitution. Today, the SC has supported my viewpoint.”
He said every institution was working within constitutional limits.