LAHORE - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s statement before the apex court on Tuesday may have come as a great surprise for many; but it was only after acceptance of local immunity of the President by the court as well as firm guarantees from Geneva that pending against President Asif Ali Zardari would not be re-opened that the government has committed to write the much-talked about letter to the Swiss authorities.

“Since the court had accepted President’s local immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution during two hearings of the NRO implementation case on July 26 and August 8, the government has decided to write the letter”, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant, Fawad Ch said while talking to TheNation.

Fawad said that Supreme Court had clearly told the Attorney General during two earlier hearings of the case that it was ready to accept the local immunity for the President if the letter is written in compliance of the court orders. He was confident that cases against President Zardari would neither be re-opened at home nor abroad (Switzerland).

Meanwhile, former legal adviser to NAB on Swiss cases, Shehzad Akbar said in a Waqt News programme hosted by Fahd Hussain that the matter of reopening of cases in Switzerland had been buried forever because the maximum period of 15 years fixed for trial of cases in Swiss courts would lapse in September this year.

He said this was the reason that the government had assured the Supreme Court about writing of the letter.

Commenting on Tuesday’s development, a PPP stalwart said that government was confident that trial of Shaheed BB’s grave would not take place after the letter has been written.

According to him, the President enjoyed international as well local immunity and hence the writing of letter would not make any difference. Asked why the government did not allow former PM Gilani to comply with the court orders on its present plea, he said that at that time the situation was different since the court had not given any hint that it was ready to accept the local immunity enjoyed by the President.

A senior lawyer told this scribe that government was earlier reluctant to write the letter because of its implications at home where the pending cases against President Zardari might have been re-opened after writing of the letter which would have meant that President no longer enjoyed the immunity shield under Article 248. “Now, this may not be the case since the court has dropped a hint about acceptance of President’s local immunity”, he added.  

It is relevant to mention here that a number of corruption cases are still pending in courts against President Zardari in Pakistan which were closed by NAB due to Presidential immunity. They included Cotecna reference, ARY Gold, Ursus Tractor reference, Assets reference, Steel Mills reference and Polo Ground reference.

It may be recalled here that it had been a consistent stance of the PPP-led government that no Prime Minister would ever write the letter, come what may. The government had then taken the plea that writing letter to the Swiss authorities would be in violation of Article 248 of the Constitution which provided immunity to the President from prosecution.

It was also said by PPP leaders that it would be tantamount to trial of the Shaheed BB’s grave, hence no PPP Prime Minister would write the letter.  

However, following the demise of Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, all cases against the two ladies were dropped, and now President Asif Ali Zardari remains the only surviving accused to face the pending cases at home after his Presidential immunity ends.