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Pak government terminates graft cases against Zardari
February 27, 2008 11:22 IST
Last Updated: February 27, 2008 14:06 IST
With President Pervez Musharraf's [Images] fate hanging in the balance, Pakistan government on Wednesday terminated graft cases against Pakistan People's Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari shortly after the Supreme Court dismissed three petitions challenging a controversial order granting amnesty to PPP leaders in corruption cases.
The National Accountability Bureau, the anti-corruption body, terminated cases against Zardari and Rehman Malik, the security advisor of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto [Images], immediately after the Supreme Court gave it's ruling on Wednesday morning.
NAB's deputy prosecutor general Zulfiqar Bhutta said the agency had initially given directions for the termination of cases after Musharraf issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance in October 2007.
But several anti-corruption courts had refused to stop hearing cases against Bhutto, Zardari and others after the NRO was challenged in the apex court, which also issued a stay on all benefits granted under the law, Bhutta said.
Following Wednesday's order from the Supreme Court, the cases were finally terminated, he said.
Bhutto's name was removed as an accused from cases being heard by anti-corruption courts following her assassination in December.
A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed dismissed petitions filed by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif and an advocate challenging the constitutional validity of the NRO.
The counsel of the three petitioners either failed to appear in court or said they had no instructions on proceeding further. Attorney General Malik Qayyum, who represented the government, said the case should be settled quickly and not allowed to drag on.
Two other petitions, filed by retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan and former federal minister Mubashar Hassan, were adjourned indefinitely by the court. The bench also withdrew the stay issued in 2007 by the pre-emergency Supreme Court that barred other courts from giving judgements in graft cases involving persons who benefited from the NRO.
The apex court directed the other courts, including anti-corruption courts, to settle all such cases expeditiously. Besides Bhutto and Zardari, several top leaders of their Pakistan People's Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had benefited from the NRO.
Musharraf promulgated the NRO on October 5 2007, a day ahead of the presidential poll, which he contested while still in uniform. The law benefited leaders of the PPP but did not cover leaders of the PML-N, including former premier Nawaz Sharif.
In exchange for the quashing of graft cases against its leaders, the PPP did not boycott the presidential poll, giving Musharraf's re-election credibility. Following his re-election, Musharraf quit the post of army chief and took oath as a civilian president for a second five-year term.
As ordinances in Pakistan have a life of only three months, the NRO lapsed in January. But the caretaker government has said it continues to be in force as it was covered by the same order that validated 2007's emergency imposed by Musharraf.
Attorney General Qayyum told the court that the NRO has become a law and could be withdrawn only by parliament.
The petitions challenging the NRO had said the law violated fundamental rights as no government has the right to quash corruption cases. The petitioners also contended that the ordinance was contrary to the constitution and asked for it to be scrapped.
Retired Chief Justice Saeed-uz-Saman Siddiqui pointed out that the cases dismissed by the apex court on grounds of 'non-prosecution' could be 'restored' in the future.
He also said the two petitions that were adjourned indefinitely were still 'alive' and could be taken up at any time, implying that the benefits under the NRO could be withdrawn by the apex court.