Pakistan’s prime minister defends immunity for president

Pakistan’s prime minister defends immunity for president
# 01 July 2012 03:18 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has defended President Asif Ali Zardari’s immunity from prosecution, saying it would not end until he leaves office, APA reports quoting Press TV.

Ashraf’s Saturday comments come after Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the new prime minister two weeks to reopen corruption cases against Zardari.

The court disqualified Yousaf Raza Gilani as prime minister on June 19 after convicting him of contempt in April because he had refused to reopen the multi-million-dollar cases.

"He (Asif Ali Zardari) is the democratic elected President of Pakistan and as per law, he enjoys the immunity as long as he holds the office," Ashraf said.

"All the legal experts have given us the same opinion... So we will see the matter from the same angle," he added.

Ashraf, former information and technology minister and a close ally of President Zardari, was elected by the National Assembly of Pakistan to replace Gilani on June 22.

The corruption cases against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, supposedly used Swiss bank accounts to launder USD 12 million allegedly paid in bribes.

Gilani’s government argued that Zardari, who rejects the corruption charges, enjoys immunity as the country’s president and refused to follow the court order.

Gilani’s disqualification has spelled a fresh political turmoil and the clash of institutions in Pakistan just months ahead of the widely-expected general elections.