After a tussle lasting over three years between the judiciary and the executive, we are told that the letter seeking the reopening of corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari has finally been dispatched to the Pakistan mission in Geneva. From here, we assume it will be handed over to the Swiss authorities. A receipt showing the letter has been received in Geneva is to be presented to the Supreme Court on November 14, according to the law minister.
It is a relief that this long drawn-out affair seems finally to be over. What it means in real terms, though, is dubious, given that the letter contains a line specifically mentioning that the president is immune from action. This has also been pointed out by former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, who said that this was precisely the line he took in his refusal to dispatch the letter. The contentious debate over the matter cost the jobs of one prime minister, two law ministers, four law secretaries and three attorney generals and several senior bureaucrats. One wonders if the whole issue was really worth all this.
The letter has been sent following presidential approval granted last week and direction from the prime minister to the ministry of foreign affairs, which posted the missive. As the Swiss have already indicated, if the principle of presidential immunity is accepted, the whole matter will then come under international law. The question then arises, what all the fuss was about in the first place? We also wonder why the letter could not have been sent off about three years earlier, saving us from a lot of debate, confusion and political instability as dire forecasts were made of an impending clash between institutions and a threat to the sitting government.
It is also hard to predict what will happen now. The handling of the matter by Geneva will be closely watched. There is every possibility matters will not go very fast, at least while President Zardari holds office. And this means we may have to wait a very long time to see anything concrete emerge from this.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2012.