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PPP won't show flexibility on presidential immunity

07 October, 2012

ISLAMABAD: In view of severe resistance from senior leaders of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Law Minister Farooq H Naek is likely to stick to mentioning presidential immunity in the draft of the letter to be sent to the Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against President Asif Zardari.

He will present the draft before the Supreme Court's five-member bench on October 10.

Sources revealed to our sources that a group of PPP leaders close to former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani was already upset over change in the party's policy on the NRO implementation case and were questioning as to why did the PPP's legal team not advise about writing the letter to former PM Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the same case.

It has been learnt that due to pressure from this group, the law minister was likely to mention Article 248 of the constitution in the draft, as on Friday he had refused to give any commitment before the bench for further improvement in the proposed letter.

It was Naek who convinced the PPP leadership to write a letter to Swiss authorities by claiming immunity for President Zardari. He also said at this stage it would be easy for the government to settle the issue but it might lose control over contents of the letter during tenure of the caretaker government. The sources also said the PPP legal experts have suggested President Zardari show flexibility in the exclusion of presidential immunity from the proposed letter, otherwise cases against him would be reopened in Pakistan as well.

They said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was also reluctant to show flexibility in the immunity issue after the court's proceedings against non-implementation of its judgement in the Rental Power Projects case.

A PPP lawyer claims the bench is divided over the immunity issue, therefore, the 30-month deadlock between the judiciary and executive could remain unresolved. He also lauded the efforts of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in resolution of the long-standing issue. It is to be noted that Justice Khosa on July 25 had assured the government's legal team that they did not want to prosecute President Zardari, and that Zardari as the president of the country enjoys customary international immunity abroad.

Similarly, Justice Khosa on Friday observed they were only "inches away" from the perfect solution that would uphold the dignity of the court and also address the government's concerns. "We have in the last hearing said that it is the last opportunity, but don't want the efforts to go to waste," he further noted.

On the other hand, a number of PPP workers still believe that writing to Swiss authorities would be tantamount to the trial of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's grave.

End.

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