The government has finally dispatched the contentious letter to Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, bringing nearly three years of legal wrangling between the executive and the country’s superior judiciary to an end.
“We dispatched the letter to the Swiss authorities on Monday (November 5, 2012),” confirmed Law and Justice Minister Farooq H Naek on Wednesday. Talking to The Express Tribune, he revealed that the letter was dispatched via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Pakistan’s embassy in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Zamir Akram (Permanent Representative of the Pakistani Mission in Geneva) or his representative will hand the letter to the Swiss Attorney General in Geneva,” Naek added. He explained that the Pakistan envoy will take a receipt from the Swiss Attorney General’s office after the latter receives the letter.
Akram will very likely receive the letter today (November 8) or tomorrow, officials dealing with the matter further informed The Express Tribune. They said the law ministry will then receive the receipt, either through fax or scans of the document, by Monday (November 12).
“The receipt will finally be submitted to the apex court on November 14,” Naek concluded.
Sharing details with The Express Tribune, law ministry officials said the text of the much-awaited letter is the same as that agreed between the law minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. It states:
“This is with reference to the letter dated May 22, 2008 addressed by Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the then attorney general of Pakistan to Daniel Zappelli, Attorney General, Geneva, Switzerland. In view of the directions given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in paragraph 178 (copy attached as Annex-I) of its judgment dated December 16, 2009 in the case of Dr Mobashir Hasan… the aforesaid letter is hereby withdrawn and may be treated as [it had] never [been] written… therefore, the revival of requests, status and claims is sought. This is without prejudice to the legal rights and defences of the presidents/heads of state which may be available under the law, constitution and international law.”
On October 21, a nearly three-year-long standoff between the government and the Supreme Court concluded after Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf gave Naek the go-ahead for dispatching the letter to Swiss authorities. Earlier, on October 10, the apex court had given the government a four week deadline for sending the letter.
Last week, President Zardari finally approved the decision.
Along with former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, two law ministers, four law secretaries and three attorney generals, along with several other senior government officials, have lost their offices in the tussle over the ‘Swiss letter’. The tussle started after the apex court declared former president Pervez Musharraf’s National Reconciliation Ordinance unconstitutional.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2012.