Amnesty Law Void, Court Gives Ultimatum


Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court warned the government of action if its verdict on amnesty law, which granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases, was not implemented by January 10. The court had declared the amnesty law, National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), void.


To implement the SC order, the government must reopen graft cases against thousands of people, including Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. These cases were closed under the amnesty law promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf in 2007 to enable slain leader Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile. Benazir had a number of cases against her pending in courts.


The Supreme Court’s warning intensified pressure on an embattled Zardari because implementation of the verdict will require the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against him.


A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa expressed displeasure over non-implementation of the court order and said it would take action for non-compliance against those responsible, irrespective of their office or authority.


The NRO granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and terrorism between January 1, 1986, and October 12, 1999. The judiciary, which was restored after a successful campaign to oust Musharraf, had struck down the NRO. A 17-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had declared it unconstitutional on December 16, 2009. The court dismissed the government’s review petition on November 25, 2011 and directed that the 2009 order should be implemented.


While striking the down the law in 2009, the court said all beneficiaries of the “now defunct NRO” would have to face trial. Among them is President Zardari charged in accountability and money-laundering cases.

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