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Zardari exempt from prosecution: Gilani

January 23, 2010

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani Friday said President Asif Ali Zardari was exempt from prosecution in any corruption case according to the constitution, setting up the possibility of further confrontation with the judiciary.

Zardari was exempt in accordance with Article 248 of constitution, Gilani said, adding the government has consulted renowned advocate Aitzaz Ahsan on the matter.

He said his government honours the courts and would ensure implementation of the verdicts regarding National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Zardari faced the prospect of being jailed after the corruption cases against him are reopened, since the Supreme Court last month invalidated the NRO that had enabled him and his slain wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to return home from self exile.

The then president Pervez Musharraf had promulgated the NRO in October 2007.

A petition was filed in the Lahore registry of the Supreme Court Monday seeking constitutional indemnity from prosecution for Zardari.

Barrister Zafarullah of the little-known Watan Party said in his petition that the president, under Article 242 of the constitution, could not be summoned to any court of the law as he is the head of the state.

It said a Supreme Court order on reopening corruption cases against some 250 politicians, bureaucrats and retired military officers who had benefited from a graft amnesty that the court has invalidated did not apply to Zardari as he was the president.

Zardari is on an extremely sticky wicket as the Supreme Court itself will have to rule on whether or not he enjoys constitutional immunity from prosecution.

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