‘Time bar’ factor rules out probe into Swiss cases against Asif Zardari

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday that cases against former presidentAsifAli Zardari before the Swiss court cannot be re-opened as the appeal of the government of Pakistan wastimebarred. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB)submitted itsreply before the apex court in a case regarding the recovery of losses incurred because of the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
The anti-graft body informed the court that the matter before the Swiss court against respondent Asif Ali Zardari cannot be re-opened. The court was also told that nothing was found against Malik Qayyum. Feroz Shah Gilani, President of Lawyers Foundation for Justice, had filed the petition in the Supreme Court for the recovery of losses Pakistan had incurred after the promulgation of NRO. On July 4, 2018, the Supreme Court had directed former presidents General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari, NAB as well as former attorney general Malik Qayyum to submit their replies.
The respondents were also asked to furnish the details of their assets and properties along with an affidavit. In its two-page reply, the NAB also included a list of pending cases against Zardari in Pakistan courts. It informed the court that there are five pending cases against Zardari in high courts, including an assets-related case that has been in the Lahore High Court (LHC) since 2015. Similarly, the anti-graft body submitted that four other cases, including the SGS, Cotecna, Ursus tractors and ARY gold import had been pending in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for the last few years.
The NAB contended that it had found no evidence of the NRO causing any financial loss to the national exchequer. It is pertinent to mention here that in pursuance of the court’s direction, Zardari and Musharraf had already submitted their replies before the apex court.Asif Ali Zardari in his reply had submitted that he had no role in the promulgation of NRO, adding that he wasin jail at the time of its promulgation. He had contended that the instant petition wasfrivolous and a classic example of a politically-motivated petition in order to malign him so that maximum political damage was caused to the PPP.
Hence, he prayed the apex court to dismiss it forthwith. Similarly, Musharraf in his reply had informed the Supreme Court that the NRO was promulgated without any mala fide or vested interest and all his actions were in accordance with the laws as existed at that time. The former military ruler had contended that he promulgated the NRO on the advice of the government (through his channel) and it was declared void-ab-initio by the apex court in 2010.
He had submitted that the move aimed at fostering mutual trust and confidence amongst the holders of public office and remove the vestiges of political vendetta and victimisation, to make the election process more transparent and to amend certain laws for that purpose and for the matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto. The NRO was promulgated in Oct 2007 by the government of the-then president Musharraf. Under the ordinance, the cases registered against politicians were removed, paving the way for many of them return to the country