Contempt case: PM, Aitzaz mull writing letter to Swiss govt

Published: February 27, 2012

The apex court will examine documents submitted on behalf of the counsel during the February 28 hearing. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

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.

Reader Comments (13)

  • Mirza
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:55AM

    Writing a letter knowing that the president has immunity according to Pakistani constitution and under International law is meaningless. What the PCO SC judges want is that by writing this meaningless letter PPP would self incriminate and provide the ammunition for future. In most democratic countries nobody can be forced to testify against themselves even in cases of blatant murders. Here is the Fifth Amendment from US constitution:
    “The Fifth Amendment protects witnesses from being forced to incriminate themselves. To “plead the Fifth” is to refuse to answer a question because the response could provide self-incriminating evidence of an illegal act punishable by fines, penalties or forfeiture”.

    Recommend

  • grinz09
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:27AM

    Ahson is playing a cat and mouse game. His opinion has been that the letter should be written and yet he defends the PM who till now has refused to write the letter. Most ironical!

    Recommend

  • Beatle
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:33AM

    @Mirza:
    A very valid point. Neverthless, its no more remains any legal or constitutional subject, but purely that of “EGO”. Decision has already been made (by either side), and now its just a matter of time to make it public.

    Recommend

  • Noman
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:59AM

    How can a person self-incriminate himself if he is innocent? The prime minister’s council has not taken the plea of not writing the letter because of self-incrimination but has taken the plea of immunity of the president. Further more is there a similar law as the fifth amendment in Pakistan?

    Recommend

  • SK - Salman
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:11PM

    @Mirza:
    So if it is so meaningless, why these shenanigans for more than last two years???? Gilani should have just complied with the court order and should have written the letter, which in your words would have been ‘meaningless’ anyway, so no harm would have come to them. No national or international law worth their salt serve to protect the looters of national wealth so quit hiding behind ‘international law.’ Even a sitting President like Bill Clinton was dragged to court while he was the President of the U.S. and became the second US President to be impeached, the first being the 17th US President Andrew Johnson who was impeached in 1868.

    And how is quoting the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution applicable to Pakistani law???? The mumbo jumbo confused minds have made a mess of Pakistan’s politics.

    Recommend

  • Ishrat Salim
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:08PM

    S K Suleman Sb…is very right…why shud we go by the American constitutional clause of 5th amendment.The SC has the jurisdiction of interpretation of the constitution,hence the clause of ” immunity ” is also a matter of interpretation by the SC & cannot be held as ” word ” written on a rock “…& Ahsan Sb knows it too well….they are just trying to gain time so that this case is time barred as per Swiss law.But what one will do against Allah law ?

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:14PM

    This is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and under Islamic law nobody, not even the ruler has immunity for a crime committed, this is basic and is being ignored, this hypocrisy must end. The parliament will not change it as it does not suit them, so it is up to the Supreme Court.

    Recommend

  • shakrullah khan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:27PM

    @Mirza:
    I wonder how Fifth Amendment is relevant to the case . The supreme court has

    asked only for re-opening of the case . How will it constitute self-incrimination by

    President Zardari or anybody else if the decision of the court is implemented ? It will

    have no bearing on the case in terms of guilt or otherwise of the accused .

    Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ahmad
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:33PM

    Government entities, Secretaries, advisors, ministers etc are provided to the Authority (PM, President or any authority) for asistance only. Responsibility of final decision and taking action lies with the authority only.

    Recommend

  • Syed
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:32PM

    Quote: 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.

    Isn’t that PM is the all authority, how come he is obeying Presidents Order and not following the Supremet Court or the Constituion or the Oath he took?

    Recommend

  • K. Salim Jahangir
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:24AM

    He has become senator after his heart’s desire,now he can change his opinion once again.

    Recommend

  • Ishrat Salim
    Feb 28, 2012 - 5:36PM

    Ticket for Senate to Aitazaz Sb is his fee to defend PM / President at all cost…Recommend

  • Haziq Ali
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:26PM

    The PM’s indictment is being taken by some in the media as his conviction, which can only be considered jumping the gun. Such comments reflect lack of knowledge and information about how the legal procedure works. They have no idea of the framing of charges against a defendant, its implications and subsequently the choices available to the defendant. At the moment, the contempt case against PM Gilani has entered its second phase, as he has pleaded not guilty. The court has relieved him of appearing before the bench until further notice and his counsel will represent him. It is too early and inappropriate to make comments on the fate of PM Gilani and the future of his party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), as the case is now subjudice. It is the court’s privilege to give a verdict in the case either in favour of the PM or against him, which would be final.

    Recommend

More in Pakistan