PPP upset with SC order on reopening Prez cases

Lahore: The ruling Pakistan People`s Party has expressed disappointment at the Supreme Court`s order on reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari while opposition parties say the court has shown flexibility by offering six options for implementing its ruling. The PPP believes the apex court`s "aggressive" stance will result in political and economic instability in Pakistan.

In its order issued on Tuesday, the court warned that action could be taken against the President and Prime Minister for failing to revive high-profile corruption cases. "We regret the Supreme Court`s decision as we were expecting that it would help strengthen the political system and democracy in the country, but the case is otherwise," said Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, the head of the PPP?s Punjab chapter.

The verdict will lead to political and economic stability, he said. "It will have a disastrous impact on the country`s economy, which is already in bad shape," Warraich said, adding the apex court had ignored the President`s immunity from prosecution under Article 248 of the Constitution. "This Constitution also sets the age of 65 for superannuation of judges unlike other departments. We respect the judges and they should respect the Constitution," he said.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2007 to withdraw corruption cases against 8,000 persons, including politicians and bureaucrats. Slain former premier Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Zardari, were among the beneficiaries of the graft amnesty. The apex court struck down the NRO in December 2009. Since then, it has been pushing the government to revive corruption cases against Zardari in Switzerland. The government has refused to do so on the ground that the President has constitutional immunity.

Warriach said the PPP`s leadership would finalise its strategy on the six options given by the apex court for implementing its order on the NRO before the next hearing on January 16. Shafqat Mahmood, the spokesman for cricketer-turned- politician Imran Khan`s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, said: "The Supreme Court has shown flexibility by offering six options to the government for implementation its verdict on the NRO." Mahmood said his party would stand with the Supreme Court if the government tried to "attack" it.

"Now it is the government`s responsibility to act according to the Supreme Court`s verdict. We will support the apex court if the executive goes against the verdict. We`ll force the corrupt politicians to leave the government." Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan described the court`s judgment as "most prudent" and advised the PPP?s leadership to respect and implement the apex court?s orders instead of going in for a confrontation.

He said that on one hand, the government claimed it was giving due respect to the apex court but on the other, the President and the Prime Minister had bluntly rejected its orders by avoiding writing to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari. Hasan said the apex court had given another opportunity to the government and its leaders could review their conduct and implement the court?s directives.

Senior PML-N leader Khwaja Asif said the NRO was the "blackest spot" of the country`s history and it would be better for the government to obey the court`s order in this regard instead of confronting the judiciary. "The nation is expecting the Supreme Court not to show any further leniency to law enforcement authorities in connection with getting its orders implemented," Asif said.