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Gilani's lawyer feels he may not get a fair trial

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's lawyer today said he feared that Gilani would not get a fair trial in the contempt case, and that the government could not act on the Supreme Court's orders to revive graft cases
against Asif Ali Zardari as long as he was President.

Appearing before a seven-judge bench led by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk that is hearing the contempt case against the premier, Gilani's counsel Aitzaz Ahsan said he feared his client would not get a fair trial as the same judges who had
issued a show cause notice to the premier were now hearing the case.

Explaining the stand adopted by the premier on the apex court's orders to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland, Ahsan, one of Pakistan's leading lawyers, said the government cannot comply with the directives as long as Zardari was President.

If Gilani is convicted in the contempt case, he could face a six-month prison term and be disqualified. Reuters

Ahsan said Gilani had never stated that he would not follow the apex court's orders. The premier cannot write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases against Zardari because the President enjoys immunity and the court's ruling cannot be acted upon for the time being, he reiterated.

He further contended that the President enjoys immunity in 198 countries under Article 248 of the Constitution. Ahsan also said the case against the premier was a criminal one that must be decided on the basis of evidence and
the judgement cannot be based on newspaper or media reports.

If the accused deserves to be hanged on the basis of evidence and proof, he should be hanged, Ahsan contended. On the other hand, if the accused is innocent, the court should say so, he said. The bench assured Ahsan that the judges would act strictly according to the law.

At one stage, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk asked Ahsan whether the bench should not hear the case. Ahsan replied that the bench that issued a show cause notice to the premier and gave a ruling against him before the conclusion of the hearing should not take up the case.

If Gilani is convicted in the contempt case, he could face a six-month prison term and be disqualified. The apex court had earlier set 21 March as the deadline for approaching Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against Zardari, but Gilani said in a reply submitted to the court yesterday that the President could not be left to the mercy of a magistrate in a Western country as he enjoyed immunity.

Gilani further asked the court to let parliament decide the issue of presidential immunity. In recent remarks to the media, Gilani has said he would prefer to be jailed rather than violate the Constitution by reviving the cases against Zardari.

The government has not acted on repeated orders to re-open the cases against Zardari since late 2009, when the Supreme Court struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

PTI