More than a month after it dispatched the contentious Swiss letter, the government still awaits a response from the Swiss authorities on the reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
“We have yet to receive any response on the letter from the Swiss attorney general in Geneva,” Law and Justice Secretary Yasmin Abbasi told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
“We will of course seek the services of international lawyers in case the Swiss attorney general entertains Pakistan’s request and re-examines graft cases against President Zardari and other persons,” she added.
Currently, Pakistan’s ambassador in Geneva Zamir Akram and his legal director are coordinating with the Swiss authorities examining the letter’s content, law and justice ministry officials familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune. They added the ministry has also decided to send two senior officials to Switzerland to provide further legal assistance to the Pakistani mission.
The legal officers were unable to leave for Switzerland last week due to the unavailability of Law Minister Farooq H Naek following the death of one his family members.
The mission in Geneva has already received advice from National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor General KK Agha, who prepared the case while working as an additional attorney of Pakistan, the sources further informed The Express Tribune. At the time, Agha closely coordinated with then NAB chairman Nawid Ahsan – who sent letters to the Swiss attorney general under section 21 of the NAB Ordinance 1991 as well, requesting mutual legal assistance.
Meanwhile, eminent international law expert Ahmer Bilal Sufi maintained the chances that graft cases against President Zardari will be opened were ‘miniscule’.
“Swiss legal wizards will examine Islamabad’s request under local laws,” said Sufi, explaining that “in Switzerland, once an investigation against the accused is closed on the request of the aggrieved party, it becomes very difficult under local laws to entertain a request to reopen the case.”
His opinion seemingly supports the text of the Swiss letter as well, which states: “This is without prejudice to the legal rights and defences of presidents/heads of state which may be available under the law, constitution and international law.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2012.