Facing the July 12 deadline to respond to the Supreme Court’s order to reopen graft cases against Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s new Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf has defended the President’s immunity, saying it would only end after he leaves office. “He (Zardari) is the democratically elected President and as per law, he enjoys immunity as long as he holds office,” Ashraf told reporters last night.
He said all legal experts had given the government the same opinion on this issue. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court gave Ashraf time till July 12 to indicate whether he would ask Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against Zardari. Ashraf’s predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani was convicted of contempt and disqualified by the apex court after he refused to act on orders to revive the corruption cases against Zardari. Both Gilani and Ashraf have contended that the President enjoys immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and abroad. The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive the cases against the President since December 2009, when it annulled a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that had benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.
Asked specifically whether he would write to Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against Zardari, Ashraf said he would announce his decision on July 12. Immunity is enjoyed not only by the Pakistani President but all Presidents of the world, he said.
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