Pak SC To Gilani: Reopen Graft Cases Against Zardari, Contempt Case Will End

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday insisted that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should write to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, saying no one is above the law.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday insisted that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should write to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, saying no one is above the law.The $60 million that was allegedly laundered will come back to Pakistan only if the letter is written to Swiss authorities, the eight-judge bench said.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said the contempt proceedings against the prime minister would end if he wrote a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari.

Chaudhry made the remarks while hearing Gilani's appeal against an order summoning him on February 13 for the framing of charges in a contempt of court case for refusing to revive the cases against Zardari.

The person involved in these cases is the head of the prime minister's party but no one is above the law, he said.

The USD 60 million that was allegedly laundered will come back to Pakistan only if the letter is written to Swiss authorities, the eight-judge bench said.

The bench further directed Gilani's lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan to remove some "objectionable" paragraphs from Gilani's appeal.

In these paragraphs, Gilani had questioned the contempt case initiated against him even though he had freed several top judges who had been detained by the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Ahsan on Wednesday filed Gilani's appeal against a different bench's order summoning him on February 13 for the framing on contempt of court charges.

The 200-page appeal pointed out more than 50 legal and constitutional points which support the view that the premier did not go against the Constitution by not reopening the cases against Zardari.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by Musharraf.

The government has refused to reopen the cases against Zardari, saying the president enjoys complete immunity from prosecution in criminal cases in Pakistan and abroad.

Commentators have accused the apex court of bias, saying it had taken virtually no action against the more than 8,000 other people who had benefited from Musharraf's graft amnesty.

During Thursday's proceedings, the chief justice questioned Ahsan on how he could include paragraphs in the appeal which said a contempt case had been initiated against a prime minister who helped in restoring deposed judges.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Ahsan said if a contempt case was initiated against him, he too would have taken the same stance in view of his struggles for restoring judges who were deposed by Musharraf.

Ahsan said Gilani was appearing before the court in a personal capacity and if he was convicted, it would be Gilani who would be sent to jail and not the prime minister.

However, the chief justice contended that a prime minister should have high ethical standards and the language of Gilani's appeal gave the impression that he wanted to influence the court's judgment.

Ahsan insisted that Gilani should get the benefit of the doubt.