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By Hasan Khan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: - The Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) unconstitutional December 16, reviving all cases of corruption, misuse of power and embezzlement abolished under this law.
A full court, comprising 17 judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, unanimously declared the law unconstitutional, and null and void.
Speaking to media, senior lawyer Hafiz Pirzada said all cases of a civil and criminal nature against politicians and former government officials, including incumbent President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, stand restored to their position as of October 5, 2007 - the date when the controversial law was signed into law by former President Pervez Musharraf.
Reacting to the court decision, Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told reporters that the People’s party respects the court verdict. However, Babar said Zardari has immunity under article 248 of Pakistan’s constitution.
“There is no question of President Zardari’s resignation”, Babar said.
Jamaat Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed said the decision will have lasting impact on Pakistan’s political scene. Talking to reporters, Qazi advised Zardari to resign without waiting for the people to demand it.
The controversial law abolished all cases of criminal, corruption, embezzlement and misuse of power against politicians and government officials registered from January 1, 1986 to October 12, 1999.
The Supreme Court in a landmark decision July 31, 2009, asked the government to approve all ordinances pending in parliament, including the NRO, which was up for renewal.
However, on November 4, 2009, facing resistance from opposition parties, the government, withdrew the NRO bill from the agenda of the National Assembly. The government then decided not to defend the law before the court.
Zardari is not the only beneficiary of the law.
The leader of the Muthahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Altaf Hussian, is reported to be the biggest beneficiary with 71 cases, including murders and attempted murder, withdrawn against him.
The mother-in-law of Zardari, Nusrat Bhutto, PPP leader Jehangir Badr, interior minister Rehman Malik, and defense minister Ahmad Mukhtar also benefited from the law.