The Supreme Court of Pakistan has threatened the country’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani if he does not commence a corruption investigation against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The court’s five-judge panel declared that Gilani is obliged to probe Zardari after a decision in 2009 squelched granting amnesty to some eight-thousand politicians, government officials and businessmen who were accused of corruption and terrorism. Among those who had their amnesty lifted was Zardari.
“Prima facie, the Prime Minister is not an honest man and violated his oath,” the Court said in its order.
The 2009 order rescinded an amnesty from 2007 which was titled the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
That measure was part of a compromise power-sharing deal between then-President Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, which allowed Bhutto to return to the country.
Theoretically, the Supreme Court could re-open criminal investigations against all 8,000 subjects of the amnesty.
Specifically, Zardari, the widow of Bhutto, was accused of money-laundering in Switzerland.
However, the government has stalled on probing Zardari, arguing he still enjoys immunity from prosecution while holding office.
The Court counters that Gilani is violating his oath of office for failing to look into the president’s dirty laundry. Otherwise, they may seek to dismiss him from his post.
This latest imbroglio represents just the latest crisis that Zardari and Gilani are embroiled in, They also already under pressure from the military over an apparent memo Zardari sent to the U.S. government asking for their help in reining in the power and influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence network.
That scenario has already cost the job of the former ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani.
The Court has ordered Pakistan’s attorney general Justice Maulvi Anwar ul Haq to appear next week before a committee to explain why the government has refrained from probing Zardari.
According to some reports, the Supreme Court may be under the influence of the military to discredit both Zardari and Gilani. In the past, the Court has sanctioned three military coups in Pakistan.
Moreover, the army might be anxious to remove Zardari from power before the Senate elections which are scheduled for March. A strong showing by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) could give them a majority in the Upper House for the next six years.
Babar Awan, a PPP lawmaker, told reporters: Only the people of Pakistan have the right to decide who is popular and who is unpopular in the country, and who is honest and who is dishonest.”