PM’s contempt case: Aitzaz completes arguments before SC

ISLAMABAD: On Thursday Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for the Prime Minister in contempt of court proceedings completed his arguments and presented a report of United Nations in evidence of Presidential immunity, Aaj news reported.

During the proceedings on Wednesday Aitzaz Ahsan contended before the Supreme Court that his client was not disobeying Supreme Court’s direction for writing the letter to Swiss authorities but he wanted that the matter should be deferred till the completion of tenure of Asif Ali Zardari as President.

Asif Ali Zardari as head of the state enjoys blanket immunity in all courts under the international laws, Aitzaz Ahsan said.

Resuming his arguments before the seven-member bench headed by Justice Nasir ul Mulk, the counsel said that the President of Pakistan could not be presented before a Swiss magistrate as long as he held the office.

He said “Submitting the President to foreign courts will be humiliation of Pakistan. The Swiss courts are not asking and we are going to submit him.”

He contended that the cases in Swiss courts had been finished and closed on merit and if the Court had to revive them, there was complete immunity for the President’s office.

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa remarked that the Court had only passed direction for revival of cases as damaged civil party and making request to Swiss authorities for ignoring a letter of Malik Qayyum, the former attorney general.

He questioned “Where the Supreme Court has asked the Prime Minister to give in writing that he will be prosecuting the President! Why should we ask the Swiss authorities to prosecute our worthy President.”

“We are not desiring to send anyone to jail. They are our President and Prime Minister,” he added.

Aitzaz brought attention of the bench to its NRO judgement and said that the words of alleged money laundering had been used against the accused Zardari in a case which was closed on merit.

Justice Ejaz Afzal remarked that after writing a letter, the international immunity for a head of state under international conventions could be invoked.

Aitzaz replied by saying why he should claim the immunity: wheras in Shah Rukh Khan’s case much hue and cry was raised.

The bench should see whether Asif Ali Zardari was the head of state or not and pass an order, then the Prime Minister would consider it, he added.

“A head of State is even immune to allegations. It will bring dishonour for the whole country,” he said.

Justice Nasirul Mulk referring to para 178 of the NRO judgement questioned whether the issue was over for them to reconsider and referred back to 17-member larger bench!

The counsel replied that he was not seeking a review of the verdict. “Would it be justified to sentence his client over the issue!” he posed a query.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that during review plea, he had specifically asked Babar Awan, a question over this issue which was parried away.

He said that an opportunity had been provided for finding a way.

Aitzaz cited Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, besides State Immunity Ordinance (vi) of 1981.

He said a head of state enjoyed absolute immunity under the international laws under jurisdiction from all domestic courts all over the world in all civil and criminal matters.

He said such an immunity had been held out by all courts without invoking it. He said the purpose of these laws was the immunity for diplomatic missions and to the benefits of individuals performing functions for a state.

About bench’s question, he replied that Article 31 of the Convention 1961 did not apply directly to a head of state but held through judicial verdicts as a head of state was treated under customary laws in separate category.

To make his point, he cited verdicts entitled AM Qureshi and Mighall vs Sultan of Jahpur.

The bench adjourning the case for Thursday, asking the counsel to conclude his arguments before break.