Swiss letter draft to get last touches

Minister for Law Farooq H Naek

ISLAMABAD: The Federal government on Tuesday submitted a draft letter understandably meant for reopening cases against NRO beneficiaries, including President Asif Ali Zardari’s Switzerland cases.

On the start of the hearing, Law Minister Farooq H Naek, as per the undertaking in the last hearing, produced PM’s authorisation and the draft letter, which has to be dispatched to the Swiss authorities for revival of cases in Switzerland.The five-member bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, first examined the authorisation and then the draft letter and pointed out to the law minister that the reference number was incomplete.

Farooq H Naek replied: “It would be corrected as per the direction of the court.”Justice Khosa, after having a glance at the letter, said: “We want to deliberate on the letter”, and took a break for 15 minutes, while the law minister, the attorney general, Waseem Sajjad and other lawyers remained sitting in the courtroom.About 20 minutes later, a court assistant came and asked the law minister that the judges had called him to the chambers.

The law minister along with Waseem Sajjad went in the chambers and emerged out, apparently contended, after about 45 minutes.At 10.55am when the court proceedings resumed, the law minister requested adjournment.He stated: “The court would be very kind if the case is adjourned for Wednesday (today) as he has to attend certain matters that have cropped up in the meeting.”Neither a copy of the letter was released nor did the law minister and Waseem Sajjad utter a word about its contents.

Sources, however, told Media that in the letter the government has reproduced para 178 of the NRO judgment and at the end written that the government is writing to the Swiss authorities for withdrawing the letter written by Malik Abdul Qayyum.  Sources said that the court objection is that instead of writing that the cases should be revived on the direction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the government should write letter to the Swiss authorities on its own behalf.

The Supreme Court has declared the NRO null and void and directed the government to implement the direction given in para 178 of the December 16, 2009 judgment.Malik Abdul Qayyum, the then attorney general, wrote a letter to the Swiss authorities on May 22, 2008 for closure of cases.Ayesha Riaz, the then ambassador to Switzerland, handed over the letter to Swiss authorities on June 4, 2008 and the Swiss courts closed the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and others on August 25, 2008.

Many lawyers present in the courtroom were visibly annoyed. They said for the last four years the court has been conducting the proceedings for the NRO judgment implementation and when the government has produced a draft letter, it heard the law minister in the chambers.They also said: “The Chief Justice had always said there was no need to discuss things behind closed doors and everything should be made public.”Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Yaseen Azad, talking to journalists, said that it was a good sign that the court and the government were going for settlement of the issue.

He said the government has not shared the draft letter with him, but the way the letter is written, it seemed 99 per cent issue has been settled and only 1 per cent has to be resolved. And for that the law minister wanted to discuss it with the President and the Prime Minister, he added.The SCBA president opined if the cases would be revived, proceedings can’t start against Asif Ali Zardari till the time he remains Head of the State because he has immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution and the International Customary Law. – Nation