LAHORE – In his reply to the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has brought a precedent from neighbouring India in his defence, besides referring to a contempt of court case against former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif in which he was acquitted. In his written statement submitted to the apex court on Monday, PM Gilani has invited court’s attention to India’s Rs6,500 billion 3-G telecom scam in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was exonerated on account of “absence of proof of actual knowledge and therefore of blame”. Quoting that decision, Gilani maintained that Supreme Court of India had recognised that the prime minister’s duties were multifarious and, even though knowledge on the part of his immediate staff in the PM’s own office was proven as admitted, he (Manmohan) was not held accountable.

Gilani further stated that the system in India, including the practice of governance and the rules for conducting government business, are similar to those in our country. “The buck was therefore seen to have stopped before reaching the prime minister but here (in his case) it is being presumed, without basis, to be otherwise.”

He also reminded the court that Mian Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, was exonerated by this Hon’ble court from the criminal charge of hijacking an airplane for the reason that the correctness of the opinion of the prime minister could not be questioned so long as grounds existed from which it was possible to draw the inference that he had drawn. He (Nawaz) was actually absolved of criminal intent even though the Supreme Court itself had earlier (in the famous case of Syed Zafar Ali Shah) found him responsible for planning to create such chaos and anarchy as to justify military intervention.

Gilani also maintained that never has a prime minister been charged with contempt for having performed the functions of his office in accordance with the Rules of Business on advice tendered by the Law Department. “There is not a single precedent to my knowledge.”

The PM has offered another defence by noting that judges are also human beings and hence prone to errors. “Let us not forget that learned judges are also human beings, and fallible… It is also difficult, if not impossible, for them to disassociate from opinions so harshly and firmly expressed by them before the initiation and also before the conclusion of the trial... The orders of January 10, 2012 and of March 8, 2012 are clear indications of the mind of members of this Hon’ble Bench. Both are definitive orders. And both pre-empt my submissions.”

Another interesting aspect of PM’s reply is that he has not refused altogether to write the letter. He has admitted that the judgement has to be implemented ‘but at proper time’. He says Para 178 of the judgment in the NRO case is not implementable ‘at present only’, for the period Mr Asif Ali Zardari is the incumbent President of Pakistan. Till such time arrives that he is no more in the office, it must remain ‘inchoate’ (tentative), he added.

The PM’s reply to the SC is also an official confirmation of the speculations making rounds in the media for quite some time that all cases against President Zardari in Swiss courts stand closed. It has now been officially declared that “all cases abroad had been conclusively closed by the ‘competent authority of the concerned country’ and time for filing appeal (by the Canton of Geneva) had also lapsed”.