President Asif Ali Zardari will not file a response in the Supreme Court to petitions seeking a probe into the memo scandal, said a presidential aide on Monday, a move that could put him in direct confrontation with the apex court which had said he cannot presume immunity.
“The President will not file a reply in the memo case as he enjoys immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution,” Fauzia Wahab, the President's assistant political secretary, told PTI.
The issue of presidential immunity from prosecution is clearly stated in the constitutional Article and, therefore, the President would not file any reply in the case, she said.
“The President has the constitutional immunity to appear or reply in court,” she said.
A nine-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is hearing several petitions seeking a probe into the Memogate scandal.
The memo had allegedly sought U.S. help to stave off a coup in the country following the covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.
Incidentally, during recent proceedings, the Chief Justice observed that Mr. Zardari cannot avoid the case on the presumption that he enjoys immunity.
Justice Chaudhry had said such immunity would have to be sought from the court.
He also commented last week that the President's decision not to file a reply was tantamount to “acceptance of the charges”.
The alleged memo was made public by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.
Mr. Ijaz has alleged that he delivered the memo to the former U.S. military chief on the instructions of Pakistan's former envoy to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, who was acting at the behest of Mr. Zardari.
The government has denied Mr. Ijaz's allegations but the chiefs of the army and the ISI have urged the apex court to probe the scandal.
With the court set to resume hearing the case on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry on Monday filed a rejoinder that described the alleged memo as a “pack of lies”.
The Ministry contended that Mr. Ijaz's actions were aimed at provoking a confrontation among the state institutions.
The government believes the memo is a “non-issue” and the Prime Minister had expressed similar views, said the rejoinder.
It reiterated that the government and the presidency had played no role in drafting or delivering the memo.
The rejoinder noted that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security had been asked by the Premier to investigate the matter and was collecting the relevant records.
The Interior Ministry filed its rejoinder in response to affidavits filed by the Army and ISI chiefs, Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Ijaz.