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Immunity syndrome

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: February 4, 2012 3:36:44 am

Immunity syndrome

The contempt of court case against Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has not reached a resolution yet. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had summoned Gilani and his advocate,Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan,on February 1 to explain why the NRO verdict had not been implemented,effectively seeking a response on why the PM had not written to Switzerland to open corruption cases against President Asif Zardari.

The Express Tribune reported the court’s statement: “After the preliminary hearing,we are satisfied that prima facie there is enough grounds for further proceedings…” Ahsan had contended the PM had “not committed any contempt of court by not ordering the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reopen Swiss graft cases against President Zardari,who enjoys immunity in the country…” He was also quoted saying: “It is also an international norm and Pakistan cannot throw its president into the foreign fire.” His trump card was: “Gilani was advised by his law secretary to take this step. The prime minister himself is a layman and he cannot read the detailed verdict issued by the court in NRO implementation case.”

A member of the bench,Justice Nasirul Mulk,however,remarked the PM had earlier said not writing to Switzerland was his own decision,and that Article 248 (which provides for presidential immunity) was also no reason for not writing the letter. The debate has reached the chicken and egg conundrum — what should have come first,the letter or the immunity clause? Gilani’s next hearing is on February 13.

Bitter medicine

The Lahore-based Pakistan Institute of Cardiology (PIC) has recorded nearly 800 cases of death and illness occurring from spurious/contaminated medicine provided free by the state-run hospital. The News reported on January 31: “The Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the deaths… either from spurious drugs or due to wrong prescription of blood thinning and lipid lowering medicines”. Another report stated the Lahore high court directed a petitioner to “array Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as a respondent in a petition against him for holding 18 portfolios,including that health ministry.” The Express Tribune added: “The LHC also directed the Punjab government to inform the court about the steps taken for the rehabilitation of patients. The additional secretary health told the court that 89 deaths due to the reaction of medicines had been confirmed so far and more were being verified.”

Sharif held an anti-malarial component in IsoTab,the cardiac drug,responsible for the tragedy. Efroze Chemicals,the factory in Karachi where IsoTab was manufactured,was ordered shut for two weeks. Its owner confessed the batch produced for PIC contained Pyrimethamine,an anti-malarial,but later called it a conspiracy against Efroze Chemicals. The World Health Organisation issued global instructions to stop the use of Efroze Chemicals’ IsoTab.

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