Pakistan Supreme Court rules NRO ‘null and void’, allowing for the prosecution of many of Pakistan’s power elite, including President Asif Ali Zardari; And Strings Attached to U.S. $7.5 Billion USD “in aid” to Pakistan

The Pakistan Supreme Court has ruled that the NRO is ‘null and void’. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s days are numbered. Will he resign or hold on and let the country be consumed in prosecutions of many of the high command? Zardari is protected from prosecution while he is President, but the opposition parties in government are calling for his resignation and could be impeached under the Pakistan Constitution. View the video from Al as it explains the NRO and the ramifications of the Supreme Court action.

Opposition calls on Zardari to quit

    Taken from Al Pakistan’s main opposition party has called for Asif Ali Zardari, the country’s president, to resign after the supreme court declared void an amnesty deal protecting him from corruption charges.

    Following the ruling, officials from the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) said Zardari should be obliged to step down. “On the moral ground, he should realise that in this situation he is no longer able to effectively run the government, run the country, [or] represent Pakistan within Pakistan or outside,” Raja Zafarul-Haq, the chairman of the PML-N, told Al Jazeera. He said that his party was “not in a hurry” to call for Zardari’s impeachment, but warned: “Maybe there will be a public reaction if he decides not to step down.” Earlier, Khawaja Asif, a senior leader PML-N leader, said: “It will be in his own interest, it will be in the interest of his party and it will be good for the system.”

    Resignations demanded

    Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the party, also called for Zardari to step down, saying the president should “resign on moral grounds” and “not depend upon the crutches of the constitution”. Pakistan’s constitution guarantees Zardari immunity while in office. But the constitution also states that presidential candidates must be pious, honest and truthful and not have been convicted in a criminal case.

    The supreme court’s decision on Wednesday declaring the amnesty agreement as being unconstitutional paves the way for corruption cases against Zardari and thousands of other officials covered by the amnesty to be revived. “All the cabinet members must immediately tender their resignations,” Farooq said. Beneficiaries of the amnesty include Pakistan’s interior and defence ministers. A number of cases were pending against Zardari when it was announced by Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan’s president, that he and others would be immune from prosecution under the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

    Amnesty deal

    Musharraf declared the NRO while under pressure to hold elections and end eight years of military rule. Although Zardari has spent years in jail over corruption charges, he alleges the charges were politically-motivated and questions hang over whether he was ever actually convicted. Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won elections in 2008, restoring civilian rule, but the NRO expired at the end of last month and the PPP did not have enough support to renew the ordinance in parliament. Senior figures in the PML-N, led by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, have already called on Zardari to give up powers inherited from Musharraf such as those to sack the prime minister and dissolve parliament.

    Zardari already faces low public approval ratings and any political trouble in Pakistan is likely to be watched very closely by the West which wants Islamabad to focus on combating Islamist fighters.

Malik, other bigwigs face difficult situation

    From ISLAMABAD: As a result of the Supreme Court judgment scrapping the National Reconciliation Ordinance, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and a number of other bigwigs are likely to lose their posts because they had been convicted by accountability courts. The apex court decision restores the pre-NRO situation and those who had been sentenced in cases withdrawn under the NRO would stand convicted. Mr Malik is one of those who had been convicted for not appearing before the court in corruption cases in 2004. Now, legal experts said the interior minister would have to get bail from a court to retain his office.

    Mr Malik was facing two cases in accountability courts – illegal gratification of Rs15 million and illegal detention of a complainant. Both cases were registered in 2004. According to the National Accountability Bureau report submitted before the apex court, the minister was sentenced under section 31-A of the National Accountability Ordinance to three years’ rigorous imprisonment. Talking to reporters here on Wednesday, Mr Malik vowed to resign from his office if corruption charges were proved against him. “I would prefer to be buried in Pakistan instead of escaping,” he said.

    Some other beneficiaries of NRO would face a difficult situation. Included among them are former MNA Sardar Mansoor Khan Leghari, Murid Ahmed Baloch, Inamur Rehman Sehri, former MPA Mian Muhammad Rashid, former chairman of the NDFC Maula Bux, former MD of the Utility Stores Corporation Sadiq Ali Khan, former acting manager of the OGDC Raheel J. Qureshi and Nadeem Imtiaz.

The Strings Attached to the U.S. $7.5 Billion USD gift to Pakistan over the next five years

    WASHINGTON: The Obama administration sought to reassure US lawmakers this week it would demand ‘maximum accountability’ from Pakistan for $7.5 billion in aid and that it had safeguards to ensure funds did not reach extremists. In a report sent by the State Department to congressional committees late on Monday, the administration outlined its priorities for the aid, including water, agriculture and electricity projects, and laid out a strategy to prevent corruption and misuse of the money.

    ‘The Secretary (of State) will suspend any government to government assistance to any implementing agency if there is credible evidence of misuse of funds by such agency,’ said the report, obtained by Reuters. The report was mandated by Congress after the $7.5 billion, five-year aid plan passed into law in October. So far, appropriations committees have agreed on nearly $1.5 billion for the first year. Read more here.

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