Constitutional immunity


Editorial April 22, 2010

The issue of immunity for the president continues to rear its head.

Of course certain players engaged in the power games we so often see in our country have been particularly active in raising the matter to serve purposes written out on a script drafted by the various invisible wielders of power in our state. There is a need to lay the immunity question aside. There would appear to be little doubt, legally speaking at least, that the president is protected by the constitution.

The ruling by a division bench of the Sindh High Court that the 2008 election of the president cannot be challenged because he enjoys indemnity under the law should help emphasise this point and clear doubts on this front. There are certain facts that cannot be doubted. Under the constitution as it stands today, the president enjoys immunity.

This can change only if parliament decides to take it away from him by altering the document that lays out the basic law of the land. Until this happens, it seems pointless to keep up argument on this point. This is all the more so given that there is a rather sinister undertone to the campaign that focuses on the removal of Mr Zardari from the presidency.

It aims essentially to create instability and this is something Pakistan could definitely do without. We have seen far too much of it in the past. The campaign against the president keeps afloat through rumour, innuendo, anonymous text messages and insistent demands. It aims to vilify him as an individual and as a politician.

The immunity issue is one part of this effort. It is one that, as things stand for now, has very little real meaning in the legal or political sense, given that parliament stands behind Mr Zardari and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

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