The beleaguered President made a vow "to fight back" while chairing a meeting of the PPP’s central executive committee to review the fallout of the apex court’s decision to strike down the National Reconciliation Ordinance
President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday pledged to fight back following the annulment of a graft amnesty by the Supreme Court even as the ruling Pakistan People’s Party said it had “complete confidence” in his leadership.
The beleaguered President made a vow “to fight back” while chairing a meeting of the PPP’s central executive committee to review the fallout of the apex court’s decision to strike down the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
The PPP “reposed full confidence” in Mr. Zardari’s leadership and “vowed to rally around him at a time when he is the target of criticism and political attacks from all around and to put up a fierce fight in his defence”, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
The party also decided that federal ministers facing graft charges following the scrapping of the NRO by the apex court on Wednesday would defend themselves in court instead of resigning.
Mr. Zardari said the PPP “will not be blackmailed into asking its ministers to resign merely on the basis of accusations against them“.
None of the accusations had been proved and there is no reason for anyone to resign “until proved guilty of wrong doing”, he said.
The PPP decided on its strategy to tackle the political crisis confronting the government during the marathon meeting of its top leadership, which began in the afternoon and continued till late in the night.
Briefing the media on the meeting, senior party leader Jahangir Badr, a close aide of Mr. Zardari, said: “The PPP is united on co-chairman Mr. Zardari’s leadership and reposes complete confidence in him.
“We respect the (apex) court’s verdict but the cases (that are being reopened) were filed as part of political revenge during (former military ruler Pervez) Musharraf’s regime because the PPP did not accept him. We faced these cases in the past and will face them again,” Badr said.
Demands to resign
Responding to questions on demands from the opposition for Mr. Zardari to resign and the possible removal of the PPP-led federal government, Badr said: “The geo-political situation in Pakistan makes it very clear that anything other than democracy will lead to anarchy and chaos.”
Mr. Zardari said the PPP would “use democracy and constitutionalism as its weapons to fight it adversaries and foil all conspiracies” against the party.
Despite the hurdles put in its way, the PPP will continue “to strengthen democracy... and will not be deterred by conspiracies against it”, he said.
He said he “foresaw many more conspiracies and onslaughts against the PPP and added that none of the conspiracies will be allowed to succeed“.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and senior party leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Safdar Abbasi attended the meeting.
Ahsan, one of Pakistan’s leading lawyers, briefed the PPP leaders on the fallout of the apex court’s verdict.
Mr. Zardari and the PPP-led government are facing their worst political crisis since coming to power last year due to the Supreme Court’s annulment of the NRO, which scrapped graft cases against over 8,000 people.
The President and several close allies, including Defence Minister Mukhtar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, benefited from the NRO.
The apex court’s ruling came at a time when Mr. Zardari’s popularity ratings have hit rock bottom.
An anti-corruption court in Karachi has summoned Malik to appear before it next month while the Defence Minister was barred from on an official visit to China due to the reopening of a corruption probe against him.
Mr. Zardari’s aides have said the constitution grants him immunity from prosecution by virtue of holding the post of President.
Petition filed in Pak SC challenging verdict
A lawyer on Saturday filed a petition in Pakistan’s Supreme Court challenging any move to reopen graft cases in other countries against President Asif Ali Zardari on the ground that he enjoyed immunity under the constitution.
In the petition filed with the Lahore registry of the apex court, lawyer Zafarullah Khan said the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to order the reopening of cases against the President outside Pakistan as the constitution and international laws provide immunity to the head of state from being tried in courts.
The petition said the Supreme Court’s decision to reopen foreign cases was unconstitutional and beyond its jurisdiction.
Mr. Khan named the federal government, the law ministry and the Registrar of the apex court as respondents in the case.
A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had on Wednesday struck down an amnesty on corruption cases that benefited over 8,000 people, including Mr. Zardari and several close aides.
It also directed authorities to reopen all cases withdrawn under the amnesty inside and outside the country.
The bench also directed the government to take immediate steps to reopen cases pending against Zardari and others in Swiss courts.
Mr. Khan also told reporters that Mr. Zardari was not holding the office of President at the time the cases were originally registered but he now enjoys immunity in his capacity as head of state.
Any move to reopen the cases in Swiss court would mean that “we are subjecting our President to the jurisdiction of foreign courts”, he said.
Meanwhile, former Inter-Services Intelligence officer and rights campaigner Khalid Khwaja filed another petition in the apex court regarding the immunity from prosecution granted to the President.
Khwaja said in his petition that this immunity is in contradiction with human rights and Islamic injunctions and should be quashed.
The petition asked the apex court to declare the presidential immunity null and void.