The end of the Swiss letter saga

Published: February 11, 2013
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Pakistan had written a letter to Swiss authorities on the orders of Supreme Court. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistan had written a letter to Swiss authorities on the orders of Supreme Court. PHOTO: FILE

The prolonged saga over the writing of a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen a case against President Asif Ali Zardari was always about power, not principle. Both the government and the Supreme Court had seemingly refused to compromise over a case that was sure to be never heard by the Swiss authorities. Eventually, after losing a prime minister, it was the government that gave in. Now we have confirmation of just how fruitless this protracted battle really was. As expected, the Swiss authorities have made it clear that they have no intention of reopening the case. The last five years of constitutional crises and political uncertainty, as anyone could have predicted, therefore, have all been for naught.

In a sense, the ruling PPP can now claim vindication even though the victory is a pyrrhic one. Some may say that there was no need for former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to be removed from office, especially since the government could have averted this scenario simply by writing the letter in the first place. We would have been spared not just the Gilani drama but also the legal woes of his successor, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. One cannot help but feel that this is precisely what the PPP wanted, since the party can now campaign on a platform of victimhood and martyrdom. But the PPP’s gain has been the country’s loss, as we have had to bear the considerable expense and inconvenience of this ultimately meaningless struggle, not to mention the political instability that was caused.

Now that the Swiss case is finally dead and buried, it is time to move on. The true threat that democracy faces in the country comes from anti-democratic forces, not the PPP. That is where the focus of accountability should be redirected. The Swiss letter case was a battle of wills between two forces that have been hostile towards each other. That hostility should now end. Furthermore, all institutions of the state need to operate within the parameters of their constitutionally defined boundaries, or else, near anarchy may rise again.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Mirza
    Feb 12, 2013 - 10:49AM

    “The last five years of constitutional crises and political uncertainty, as anyone could have predicted, therefore, have all been for naught.”
    It is not all for naught but it did keep the govt form doing anything of significance. The elected govt was always looking behind its back and Swiss letter, Memo and arrest order of PM by the SC all made sure the govt fails and does not get re-elected.
    The Swiss case was all dead and buried several years ago and it was an exercise in futility only to show who is the biggest ego. Let us hope that the next elected govt is not hounded and pounded from first day till the last day of their term. It is we the people who have the power not the salaried govt employs indulging in politics.

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  • Enlightened
    Feb 12, 2013 - 1:51PM

    The retired Indian High Court judge was spot on in his observation that SC of Pakistan was crossing the red line by asking the PM to write a letter against Mr Zardari since it was violation of law of the land itself and the same might be rejected by the Swiss govt or courts.

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  • salman
    Feb 12, 2013 - 4:34PM

    i would like to know the cost associated with the trial any one with figures, along with a PM how much of the tax payers money is splashed on this egoistic trial ?

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  • Feb 12, 2013 - 6:06PM

    @salman:
    “i would like to know the cost associated with the trial any one with figures, along with a PM how much of the tax payers money is splashed on this egoistic trial ? “

    .
    Money is the problem. No money, no problems.

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  • Something Clever
    Feb 12, 2013 - 6:33PM

    @salman:
    It depends on the location and place but I’ve seen figures from around $50,000 to over $600,000. Considering the length of time it lasted, that one in particular was probably well into the six digit range.

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  • Roni
    Feb 12, 2013 - 7:14PM

    Why did these judges not try him in Pakistani courts? They kept him in jail for almost 15 years didn’t they?

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  • salman
    Feb 12, 2013 - 7:35PM

    @ something clever : All that tax payers money spent by CJ was for what ? didn’t he knew from day one , even najem sethi predicted that this will happen. Recommend

  • Sumaira
    Feb 13, 2013 - 6:55PM

    As predicted in this space innumerable times since the issue of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities blew up, the latter have responded to the Pakistan government’s missive by saying categorically that the case against President Asif Ali Zardari cannot be reopened because he enjoys immunity while in office under Pakistani and international law, and that the case has in any case been closed under the statute of limitations under Swiss law since 15 years have elapsed since the case was instituted. It may be instructive to do a brief recap of the whole affair in order to understand the diversionary journey the country has been subjected to over many years.

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