President enjoys immunity, PM tells SC
* Gilani rejects contempt of court accusations against him
* Says he and his party leaders have highest respect for judiciary
* Defends his action of not writing letter to Swiss authorities
* Justice Khosa says PM’s presence in court shows there is rule of law
* Court defers hearing for Feb 1 and exempts PM from personal appearance
By Hasnaat Malik
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani submitted before the Supreme Court on Thursday that President Asif Ali Zardari enjoyed complete immunity, not only in Pakistan but also in the world as enunciated by the constitution, therefore, he did not write a letter to the Swiss government.
A seven-judge larger bench, consisting of Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed and headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, gave the prime minister exemption from appearing before the court on the next hearing.
Justice Khosa, appreciating the presence of the prime minister in the court, said it indicated that there was rule of law.
He said that irrespective of the outcome of the case, it was a historical day as the chief executive of the country was appearing before the court.
Appearing before the Supreme Court on Thursday in response to a show-cause notice issued to him to explain why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for not complying with the court’s December 16, 2009, order on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), the prime minister stated that the president enjoyed complete immunity from prosecution even under the 18th Amendment.
He said that a president elected with a two-thirds majority could not be handed over to foreign courts, adding that it would not give a good message if an elected head of state was proceeded against. “I have discussed this with my friends and legal experts, and they all agree that he enjoyed complete immunity,” he added. He also contended that head of states had enjoyed immunity all over the world.
Gilani said he and his party leaders had highest respect for the judiciary and he could not even think of committing the contempt of court or ridiculing the court orders.
“We have restored the constitution and if there will be no constitution then there will be no respect of the court’s judgements,” he added.
He said he appeared in person to comply with the court orders that indicated his respect and honour for the court.
“We respect the courts…my intention is to respect the constitution and my associates also respect the constitution. I decided to appear before the court immediately after getting the notice,” he added.
He said that the PPP leaders always respected and honoured the courts and complied with its orders. He said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto also appeared before the courts during their lifetimes that indicated their respect and honour for the courts. He said the presence of leaders of coalition partners in the court was reflective of their respect for the judiciary.
Concluding his point of view, he said he had not given any impression that would entail contempt of court. The prime minister along with other leaders and his cabinet members attended the court proceedings and personally presented his point of view before the court.
The bench adjourned further hearing till February 1 granting time to the counsel to address it on the issue of Article 248.