April 21, 2012 3:14:12 am
Mr Prime Minister?
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is in the eye of the storm once again,this time because of his son. Talking about the ongoing contempt of court case against Gilani for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities to open graft cases against President Asif Zardari,in violation of the Supreme Courts National Reconciliation Ordinance verdict,his counsel,Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan,said that the cases could be opened against Zardari but not against Pakistans president,who enjoyed presidential immunity.
The Express Tribune quoted Ahsan on April 18: This is not a matter concerning Asif Ali Zardari,this is a matter concerning the president of the country… When Zardaris presidential tenure will end,the courts decision to write to Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against Zardari should be implemented. The next day of the hearing,The Express Tribune reported that Ahsan cited the Vienna Convention as protection for Zardari from appearing in any court. The premiers counsel… tried to establish immunity for the incumbent president using the Vienna Convention. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa,however,remarked that the convention provides immunity to diplomats and consular staff,not presidents. A president only enjoys immunity under the Vienna Convention when he is travelling abroad, the report stated. Later,the court said that the presidents immunity could be admissible in court only if it was invoked by him. The arguments and counter-arguments became lighter when Ahsan contended: If India can seek an apology from the United States for holding Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan in detention for two hours,how could Pakistan hand over its head of state to a foreign authority?
Daily Times reported on April 20 that Ahsan kept strengthening his arguments in defence of presidential immunity: Ahsan… presented a United Nations report titled Preliminary Report on Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction to support his argument on presidential immunity. He cited international laws concerning presidential immunity. He cited one incident when Belgium had issued arrest warrants for Congos foreign minister and the government of Congo had refused to present him before the Belgian magistrate. On the last day of this hearing,the court said: it was not the Supreme Court that had levelled graft charges against President Asif Ali Zardari,but the Swiss authorities were doing so. And the defendant argued: heads of states do not surrender their sovereignty in front of another countrys magistrate. The case has now been adjourned until April 24.
PM Gilani is embroiled in another legal entanglement and this one alleges his sons involvement in a drug scam. Pakistans Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) Rawalpindi has been investigating a case registered in October 2011,about the illegal sale of ephedrine a stimulant by two Pakistani pharmaceutical companies after they were accused of colluding with health ministry officials to obtain export quotas for the drug. The case is now being heard by the Supreme Court. Dawn reported on April 20: A day ahead of the hearing of the ephedrine case by the Supreme Court,the ANF submitted a report… naming eight accused,including (the) prime ministers son Ali Musa Gilani,for their alleged involvement in the scam… The accused allegedly allocated 6,500 kg and 2,500 kg of ephedrine to Berlex Lab International,Multan,and Danas Pharma (Pvt) Ltd,Islamabad,respectively,in 2010-11 for export to Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile,20 other companies were waiting for allocation of a 5,710 kg quota. According to the ANF report,the accused managed to convert the allotment of drugs intended for export into local use with the help of health ministry staff and under alleged political pressure from Ali Musa Gilani and (member of parliament) Mian Abdul Sattar. The allocation amounts were in violation of a UN convention that set the export quota for Iraq at 3,000 kg and Afghanistan at 50 kg. The News had reported on April 18 that the PM had asked his son to return from his honeymoon soon and take part in the ephedrine probe.
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