The anti-corruption agency in Pakistan is to ask Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari. The move, made on the orders of Pakistans top judge, escalates the confrontation between an increasingly assertive judiciary and an unpopular President. The decision came after the Supreme Court warned that it would jail the head of the anti-corruption agency if he did not take action. Swiss prosecutors said that they cannot reopen the cases because Mr Zardari has legal immunity as a head of state. Mr Zardari and thousands of other politicians and government officials had been shielded from corruption charges by a 2007 amnesty. The decree was struck down in December by the Supreme Court, which has been pressing the authorities to revive the cases. The chief of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the countrys top anti-corruption body, told the court yesterday that Swiss authorities have been informed that Pakistan wants to pursue the cases against the President. Swiss judicial authorities closed a money-laundering case against Mr Zardari in August 2008 and had released $60 million (40 million) which had been frozen in Swiss accounts. Mr Zardari, who replaced Pervez Musharraf in 2008, had spent 11 years in jail and faced trial for several criminal and corruption charges. He was alleged to have accumulated $1.5 billion in assets and foreign bank accounts through illegal means. A report placed before the Supreme Court by the NAB in December said that Mr Zardaris wealth was beyond his means. He was charged in the 1990s with receiving illegal commissions and kickbacks by awarding contracts to foreign companies during his wife Benazirs Bhuttos Government. Mr Zardari, who was Minister for Investment in her administration, was convicted and sentenced by a Swiss Court in 2002 but the sentence was suspended on appeal. The amnesty, known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, was introduced in October 2007 by the then President Musharraf as part of a deal brokered by the US and Britain. It allowed Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari to return to the country from exile. He took over the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party after the assassination of his wife in 2007. The Presidents supporters have made accusations that Pakistans Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who has ordered the reopening of the cases made against Mr Zardari, was being biased. The presidential immunity protect[s] the President from being tried by any court of law at home or abroad, said Farah Ispahani, a spokesman for the president, who claimed that the charges were politically motivated. The reopening of the corruption cases has made him more vulnerable to challenges about the legitimacy of his election. In a separate development yesterday a parliamentary committee in Pakistan agreed on a constitutional amendment that strips Mr Zardari of the powers of his predecessor, fulfilling a longstanding opposition demand and reducing some pressure on him. The opposition has criticised him for dragging his feet on relinquishing the powers, which he first promised to do in 2008. Analysts say that under the changes Mr Zardari will occupy a mainly ceremonial post but because he derives much of his power from his position as the co-head of the largest party he will still wield significant influence over the Government. By and large [Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Prime Minister] will hold the power, and he holds his position because he is the chosen one of Zardari, said Cyril Almeida, an opinion writer for the English language newspaper, Dawn. It is hard to imagine, given the structure of political parties in Pakistan, that Gilani will defy the President. The constitutional amendment was drafted by a committee made up of representatives from every party and must be approved by two thirds of Parliament to be ratified. (The Times)