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Musharaf withdrew Swiss ‘kickback’ cases against Zardari:ex-AG

Several cases registered in Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari for allegedly using Swiss bank accounts to stash away millions of dollars in kickbacks were withdrawn....

Several cases registered in Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari for allegedly using Swiss bank accounts to stash away millions of dollars in kickbacks were withdrawn on the orders of former Pak military ruler Pervez Musharraf,a former legal official said today.

Former Attorney General Malik Qayyum made the remarks while appearing before a 17-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry that is hearing challenges to the immunity granted to Zardari and over 8,000 others in graft cases.

Qayyum said Zardari submitted an appeal in Sindh High Court under the National Reconciliation Ordinance,a law issued by Musharraf,to repeal all corruption cases against him in February last year.

The court then abolished these cases. Acting on the directives of then President Musharraf,Qayyum wrote a letter to the Swiss courts to withdraw cases against Zardari.

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Qayyum said he had also travelled to Switzerland to apprise courts there about the NRO.

The apex court had summoned Qayyum to explain why he wrote to Swiss authorities to withdraw the cases Zardari. Acting Attorney General Shah Khawar too was asked to name the individual who authorised the withdrawal of the cases

in Swiss courts. Chief Justice Chaudhry said the individual found responsible for withdrawing the cases will be sent to jail or asked to repay to the government the Rs 2 billion spent on pursuing the cases in Switzerland.

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The Acting Attorney General also presented to the apex court the National Accountability Bureau¿s report on the Swiss bank accounts allegedly operated by Zardari and others.

According to the report,Zardari has accounts in seven banks with total deposits of Rs 59 million. The list includes the names of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto and her mother Nusrat Bhutto.

In a related development,government lawyer Kamal Azfar informed the apex court that he wished to withdraw his controversial remarks that the Central Intelligence Agency and the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army posed a threat to the democratic government.

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He had created a flutter with his remarks during yesterday¿s hearing of the case. During today¿s proceedings,Azfar said the Taliban represented the actual threat to Pakistan’s democracy.

The government has already said it will not defend the National Reconciliation Ordinance,the law that granted immunity to over 8,000 people accused of corruption,including Zardari.

Legal experts believe the beleaguered President could face more problems if the apex court declares the NRO unconstitutional and challenges Zardari¿s eligibility for the post of President.

Zardari has dismissed the corruption charges against him. During today¿s hearing,Acting Attorney General Khawar indicated that the apex court should ensure that the case does not lead to any political upheaval.

The bench then observed that stemming crimes does not pave the way for upheaval.

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Chief Justice Chaudhry praised Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for his statement that the government would comply with the court¿s verdict in the NRO case.

“If the government wants to save President Zardari,it should ask the apex court openly,” said Justice Jawwad S Khwaja,a member of the bench.

The court later adjourned the matter till tomorrow.

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The proceedings in the apex court have dominated bulletins on all TV new channels and the front pages of newspapers for the past few days.

First published on: 16-12-2009 at 21:04 IST
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