In spite of the Supreme Court coming down hard on the prime minister for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen money-laundering charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, the government is no closer to deciding whether it should submit the letter or not.
The apex court indicted Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani earlier this month for failing to abide by its earlier orders that the government must approach Swiss prosecutors for reopening the cases against the president.
“Monday evening is important to us,” Gilani’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan told The Express Tribune on Sunday, adding, “We have yet to prepare our reply for the apex court.” Ahsan will likely meet the premier today (Monday) and discuss matters related to his contempt of court case, officials engaged in preparing arguments said.
The final decision as to whether a letter should be submitted, however, will be taken by the president himself, the officials added. “The prime minister will obey his (the president’s) order in this regard.”
Ahsan, who will submit his evidence in the contempt case today, is to stick to the stance that the premier did not write the letter to the Swiss government on the advice of the minister for Law and Justice. Both the secretary and the minister of law and justice sent different summaries to the Prime Minister’s office advising him “not to write the letter to prosecutors in Switzerland”. These summaries are being submitted to the Registrar office in the apex court today.
A seven-member judge bench of the apex court will resume hearing on Tuesday. Under SC rules, it is the duty of the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) to assist the court in case proceedings. “Nobody can influence me on either side. I will perform my duty strictly in accordance with laws,” Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told The Express Tribune.
The government’s legal team is also considering buying more time, around four to five days, to conclude its arguments before the larger bench, officials said on Sunday. Tuesday’s hearing will not be enough to conclude the arguments in this case, they added.
The arguments of the defence counsel will be based on the documents being filed with the office of the SC Registrar, Dr Faqir Hussain. The apex court will then examine these documents submitted on behalf of the counsel during the February 28 hearing. If the office accepts the documents, Ahsan will be able to kick off his arguments in court, stated the officials.
Legal experts, who did not want to come on the record regarding the prime minister’s decision to not write the letter, told The Express Tribune that regardless of the law minister advising the prime minister, the ultimate responsibility lay with the premier himself as the chief executive of government.
Last week, the AGP submitted four volumes of documentary evidence before the larger bench in the prime minister’s contempt of court case. The evidence included the court’s judgments in the NRO case.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2012.