Letter and spirit

Letter and spirit

A nearly three-year-long standoff between Pakistan's judiciary and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was resolved this week. The Swiss letter, which had become a bone of contention between the PPP-run government and the judiciary, has finally been written and dispatched. The letter is meant to decide Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's fate in the context of his graft cases in Swiss courts.

The Express Tribune reported on November 8: "'We dispatched the letter to the Swiss authorities on Monday,' confirmed Law and Justice Minister Farooq H Naek on Wednesday... he revealed that the letter was dispatched via the ministry of foreign affairs to Pakistan's embassy in Geneva, Switzerland... He explained that the Pakistan envoy will take a receipt from the Swiss attorney general's office after the latter receives the letter... Last week, President Zardari finally approved the decision. Along with former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, two law ministers, four law secretaries and three attorney generals, several other senior government officials have lost their offices in the tussle over the Swiss letter".

Gilani, the most high profile victim of the standoff, told The Express Tribune that, following the dispatch of the letter, he felt "vindicated". "'I always said that the president enjoys immunity at national and international level. Today's development vindicated my stance,' said Gilani, referring to the Vienna Convention and Article 248 of Pakistan's constitution."

An editorial in Daily Times on November 9 explained what the action taken means for Zardari and the PPP: "The letter was finally... written to say in general terms that the president's legal rights and protections under domestic and international law would not be prejudiced by the sending of the letter... Is this the end of the matter? After almost three years of the country's time, money, resources and attention being wasted on what, in the end, turns out to have been a futile exercise revolving around finding the appropriate language to satisfy both the judiciary and the government, this question acquires piquancy. The ball now is in the court of the Swiss judicial authorities. Earlier, some legal eagles argued that a closed case under Swiss law could not be reopened in the absence of fresh substantive evidence. Others... say Swiss law in this regard has changed and the cases can in fact be reopened. How much of this is partisan politics and how much informed opinion is unclear."

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