ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has once again directed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to write to Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and others.

Hearing the case of implementation of Supreme Court’s December 16, 2009 judgment in National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case, the seven-member bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk ordered the PM to submit a report in this regard on March 21. The bench directed Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Maulvi Anwarul Haq to convey the court directives to the premier ‘immediately’ and observed that pendency of contempt case against the PM would not affect the implementation part of the case and its proceedings would go on as per routine.

According to AFP, it was understood to be the first time the Supreme Court has asked the prime minister directly. In the past, demands were conveyed through the law ministry, which could add its own advice.

Earlier, during the hearing of contempt case against Gilani by the same bench, AGP Anwarul Haq cross-examined Cabinet and Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi, who is a former principal secretary to PM.

The court directed Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for the PM, to file written statement of Gilani on March 19, if he decided so. But if he wanted to appear himself, he could do that on March 21. Aitzaz Ahsan told the court that he thinks the PM would like to appear himself, but said he was not sure as he was yet to discuss this issue with him. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa questioned whether the PM would appear as his own witness. If the PM would choose to do so, he will open himself for cross-examination, he added. He further said that the case at hand was ‘not of doing something’ rather it of ‘not doing something’.

The PM’s counsel said that prosecution has not brought any rebuttal or any evidence. The attorney general, who is acting as a prosecutor, said that after filing of the PM’s statement he would see whether more evidence should be filed or not.

During the hearing the NRO implementation case, the bench inquired from the attorney general what measures the government has taken for the implementation of the orders on NRO verdict. He responded that the government was weighing many options and more than one plans have been chalked out for the compliance. The bench observed that the orders were passed for the implementation of para 178 of the judgment in letter and spirit.

Justice Nasirul Mulk said they had directed the prime minister that in compliance the NRO judgment he must write letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against the NRO beneficiaries including the President Asif Ali Zardari. When no progress was made on that matter the court was compelled to issue contempt of court notice and later framing of contempt charges against the PM.

The court observed that the pendency of the contempt of court case against the PM would not affect the implementation part and its proceedings would go on as per routine. The court noted that regardless of the advice of the secretaries the “Prime Minister being head of the government and the chief executive of the country has to make the final decision about writing to the Swiss authorities for reopening the cases against the president”.

The court directed the attorney general to communicate the order to the prime minister regarding writing letter to the Swiss authorities and said: “On the next date of hearing (March 21, 2012) the PM shall file the report regarding the implementation of NRO judgment.”

Earlier, while cross-examining Nargis Sethi, the AGP asked the former principle secretary to the PM as to what were her precise functions and duties regarding the summaries that would come from various departments. She replied that important summaries, like the summaries sent by Law Ministry on May 21 and in September 2010, about writing letter to Swiss authorities were placed before the prime minister. “How do you categories that the summaries have been submitted in accordance with the Rule 15 of 1973 Rules?” the AGP then asked. Ms Sethi instead of giving any clear answer just repeated that the summaries were placed before the PM. The AGP asked her, “Did you make personal inquiry about the summary sent back to the law ministry with PM directions for its compliance.” She replied in no.

The court meanwhile dismissed a plea form Ahmed Riaz Sheikh. Dr Abdul Basit, counsel for Mr Sheikh said in the application that there were 8,500 NRO beneficiaries, but only Adnan Khawaja and Ahmed Riaz Sheikh were being targeted. Dr Basit said that it seems as if the court wants to enfold Prime Minister Gilani through Adnan Khawaja and President Zardari through Ahmed Riaz. His plea sought exclusion of his client’s name from the case. But the court dismissed his application and asked him that if his client has any grievance about NAB order, he should approach the competent forum.

Shaiq Usmani, counsel for NAB chairman, informed the court that inquiry against Adnan Khawaja has been completed and the reference has been prepared.