Lahore, Jan 23: With Pakistan Supreme Court yet to decide on the immunity status of Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister's lawyer today underlined that no criminal action can be taken against the President as long as he hold the office.
Aitzaz Ahsan, one of Pakistan's top legal experts who is defending Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case in the Supreme Court, said the President's immunity would end the day after he leaves the post.
“When the President leaves his post, his immunity ends the very next day and there will be no harm in writing a letter (to Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against him),” he told reporters at the Lahore High Court complex this afternoon.
Gilani recently appointed Ahsan - who is also a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party - as his lawyer after he was served a contempt notice by the apex court for failing to act on order to revive graft cases against Zardari.
The apex court will resume hearing the case on February 1.
Explaining the government's position, Ahsan said: “At this time, Article 248(2) of the Constitution says no criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President during the tenure of his office in any court.
“The day Asif Ali Zardari leaves the post of President, the next day the federal government can write a letter (to reopen the cases)...But as long as a person is President, regardless of who is in the post, no action can be taken.” In the same way, no court in Pakistan would accept writ petitions filed against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or High Courts as they had immunity, Ahsan said.
The cases against Zardari were closed under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued in 2007 by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited over 8,000 people.
The apex court struck down the NRO in December 2009 and has been pressuring the government since then to reopen the cases.
The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys immunity under the Constitution.