In a tectonic shift of its stance, the PPP is now rethinking its strategy which would either eliminate its Prime minister or perhaps force it into elections mandated by the Supreme Court. At least Babar Awan said the other day, he thinks that the country is moving towards mandated elections.
The response from the upright PPP Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira is th first sign that cracks are showing in its stance on writing the letter or not writing the letter.
Kaira declared that he had never said the government would not write the letter to the Swiss authorities, but justified his position by saying that the government’s stance has been that writing the letter was unconstitutional.
The Swiss money laundering case pending in Swiss courts against Mr. Zardari and his wife, Ms Benazir Bhutto. The case involved two Swiss companies paying hefty kickbacks and illegal commissions to Mr. Zardari for procuring government contracts while Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister of Pakistan. In 1997, Islamabad, under Mr. Nawaz Sharif requested the Swiss authorities that Pakistan be made a party in the civil suit against the Bhutto-Zardaris because Pakistan was a lawful claimant to retrieve the laundered money. The Swiss authorities granted the request and made Pakistan a party to the suit. The Swiss court ruled against the Bhutto-Zardari duo and ordered them to return the laundered money to Pakistan. The couple appealed against the verdict. Event took a turn when Mr. Zardari came to power and wrote to the Swiss authorities to discontinue the investigation.
Swiss authorities say they won’t investigate Preseidnet Zardari while he is in office, and lawyers argue a 15-year statute of limitations on the offences (which date from the mid-1990s) will expire at the end of this year.
Here in lies the rub, and the PPPs botched delaying tactics on establishing a cadre of executives that would be immune to contempt laws. That “law” will certainly be ruled unconstitutional, leaving the top officials of the PPP naked to punishmnet, debarment and even incarceration.
In Pakistan the Supreme Court can interpret the constitution. In the US, even a federal distinct judge may strike down a statute that Congress has passed. While the PPP accepts the Supreme Court’s rulings it does so reluctantly and at the speed of molasses flowing down a hill. The Supreme Court on has already ruled that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf must write to Swiss authorities for the reopening of cases against Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP is reconsidering its position. Kaira is now backtracking and declared that he was misquoted by a section of the media on his statement on the issue of writing a letter to the Swiss. “I never said that the party’s stance was against writing the letter. I had said that the federal cabinet would decide on the issue,” he said.
The right honorable information minister then went on to spout the company line saying that his party respected all institutions of the country, including the judiciary–blah blah blah. “Pakistan People’s Party has given many sacrifices for democracy…all the institutions will have to work together to strengthen it.”
All this may be great tidings for the country. If Mr. Ashraf does indeed write the letter and then Mr. Zardari claims immunity, then the political parties can focus on the elections and the PPP would have removed the biggest thorn in its side. Else the Supreme Court may directly involve Mr. Zardari in a case on his holding dual offices– a case that is being heard in a few days.