Corruption officials ask Switzerland to reopen Zardari case

Pakistani anti-corruption officials have asked Switzerland to reopen a case against their own president, Asif Ali Zardari. The move comes after the Supreme Court gave National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief Naveed Ahsan 24 hours to act, on pain of imprisonment.

Asif Ali Zardari.
Asif Ali Zardari. Eric Draper/Open access

Pakistan's Geo TV reported Wednesday that the government has sacked NAB prosecutor Danishwar Malik and Staff Officer of Interior Minister, Sajjad Haider. 

Zardari and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, were convicted in Geneva of laundering 13 million dollars (ten million euros) allegedly received in bribes in 2003 but the verdict was thrown out on appeal.

Another 158 cases have been reactivated after the court’s decision last year to scrap the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) brought in by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007, when he was under pressure to hold elections and quit the post.

"The background is that the United States, together with President Musharraf, had a deal to bring back Benazir Bhutto and Benazir pleaded that there should be a reconciliation process – that is why the National Reconciliation Ordinance came about – so that all the cases against her were squashed and she would be free to come back take part in politics and maybe become prime minister," comments Marianna Baber of the Paksitani daily The News.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ordered Ahsan to return to the court Wednesday with 60 million dollars (44 million euros) and plans to pursue Zardari or face jail.

“In light of directions of the court on the revival of the Swiss cases, the NAB has initiated the process,” the NAB’s lawyer Abid Zuberi told the count on Wednesday.

Zardari, who has already served eight years in jail for corruption, enjoys immunity from prosecution while president.

But Baber believes that Chaudhry may try and scrap the immunity, citing Islamic precedent.

Marianna Baber, diplomatic correspondent, the News

"The Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowdhry in one of his rulings has said that the court does not agree that the president has immunity if he is doing wrong, because they go back to Islamic law, during the time of the prophets, the prophets of Islam were dragged to court and they had to answer before the judges," she told RFI.

"So the Supreme Court feels that if Islamic history can call the prophets to court, then what is the President of Pakistan?"

The court had also ordered action against former attorney general Malik Qayyum and an increase in the number of anti-graft courts.

Ahsan said that punishments in ten cases have been restored, as well as the reopening of the 158 cases, and that an inquiry will start on 18 April into prosecutors who caused accused officials to be freed.

No request has been sent to Spain, where the Bhuttos have also faced corruption accusations.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan’s military said that at least 20 insurgents and six soldiers were killed in clashes before dawn in the Khyber tribal agency, which borders Afghanistan in the north-west of the country.

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