The Pakistan government has informed the Supreme Court that it cannot reopen multi-million dollar graft cases against former President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland because the issue is “hopelessly time-barred”.
Attorney General Munir Malik told the court that reviving the graft cases against Zardari over the alleged laundering of USD 60 million was not possible because the government’s appeal was “hopelessly time-barred” and the decision to close the cases by the former attorney general in Geneva in 2008 had become final,Dawn daily reported.
But a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry,which had taken up all cases closed under a controversial graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf,expressed disappointment over what it said was a violation of its order.
The government was still waiting for a court order instead of taking practical steps in the matter,the court observed during the hearing on Friday.
On June 26,Malik had told the court that while the previous Pakistan People’s Party-led government had written a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the cases,it had also sent a secret letter to the law firm it had engaged,asking for official confirmation of the Swiss authority’s inability to revive the cases.
Malik recalled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had in July constituted a two-member inquiry committee comprising Cabinet Division Secretary Sami Saeed and Intelligence Bureau chief Aftab Sultan,to investigate missing records and documents related to a letter sent to Swiss authorities for closing the graft cases against Zardari.
He said the committee found that former law secretary Yasmin Abbasi was directly responsible in the matter. At this,the Chief Justice said: “This is mismanagement on your part.” The apex court has adjourned the matter till November 20 after the Attorney General sought time to seek instructions from the government.
The Chief Justice asked the Attorney General what had happened to the inquiry and whether it had been shelved. He said due to the conduct of Abbasi,the country has suffered colossal loss but she was still in the service of the government,which was reluctant to take action against her.
Swiss authorities have rejected a petition by the government to reopen the cases against Zardari because the time limit to do so had passed. Law Secretary Raza Khan last month said the government had filed an appeal against the decision to close the cases in June.
The decision to close the cases was made on February 4. In April 2010,Swiss Attorney General Daniel Zappelli stated that since Zardari as President enjoyed immunity under international law,Swiss courts could not entertain any request to reopen cases against him.
In their latest response,Swiss authorities reiterated that the time to re-open the cases against Zardari had lapsed. Zardari,who was the first elected President in Pakistan’s history to complete his constitutional tenure,stepped down in September. He had a long run-in with Pakistani courts over the graft cases in Switzerland.
One casualty of the struggle was former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani,who was sacked by the apex court for refusing to ask Switzerland to reopen the cases.