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Zardari graft case: `Letter to Swiss authorities sent`

November 08, 2012 19:23 IST

The Pakistan government on Thursday informed the supreme court that it has sent a letter to Swiss authorities to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari on the condition that such a move would be linked to the international immunity available to heads of state.

A report submitted on behalf of the government by a deputy attorney general said the law ministry had dispatched the letter to Swiss authorities through the foreign office on November 5.

The report also contained documents that proved the letter had been dispatched.

The report further stated that the letter had been drafted in accordance with the supreme court's orders. Law Minister Farooq Naek told the media that he expected the government would be able to furnish documents proving that the Swiss authorities had received the letter by the time the apex court takes up the matter of the graft cases again on November 14.

The government's letter, which has been signed by the law secretary, will be handed over by the Pakistani ambassador or his representative to the Attorney General of Geneva, Naek said.

The supreme court had earlier said that it would discharge contempt proceedings initiated against the premier for failing to revive the cases against the President once it gets proof that the letter has been received by authorities in Geneva.

The text of the letter was the same as that agreed to by the court and Law Minister Naek last month.

On October 10, a five-judge bench of the supreme court approved the draft of the letter after examining it behind closed doors. The draft made it clear that any proceedings in Switzerland would be conditional to the immunity provided to the President by the Constitution and Pakistani and international laws.

The breakthrough came after weeks of sparring between the apex court and the government's legal team over the contents of the letter.

The government was given time till November 10 to send the letter to Switzerland. The letter states that another letter sent to Swiss authorities in May 2008 by then Attorney General Malik Qayyum to close graft cases against Zardari would be revoked.

It also seeks the 'revival of requests, status and claims' regarding the graft cases. Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, were accused of laundering millions of dollars through Swiss banks.

The supreme court has been pressuring the government to revive the cases against the President since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The government refused to act for months before Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf agreed to implement the apex court's orders after he was charged with contempt.

Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was convicted of contempt and disqualified in June for refusing to reopen the cases against Zardari.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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