In a major setback to the US-client government of President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's Supreme Court has declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as unconstitutional and ordered the government to reopen money laundering case against him in Switzerland.
It may be recalled that in August 2003, a Swiss Court found former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her widower, Asif Zardari, guilty of money laundering. Investigation Judge Daniel Devaud sentenced them to a six-month suspended jail term, fined them $50,000 each and ordered they pay more than $2m to the Pakistani Government along with a diamond necklace. The case was related to an illegal six per cent of commission or bribe worth $12 million for awarding a pre-shipment customs inspection contract to two Swiss firms Societe Generale de Surveillance and Cotecna. The judge said they had illegally deposited millions of dollars in accounts in Switzerland and ordered the money be returned to Pakistan.
The Swiss case was withdrawn by the incumbent government under the NRO issued by the former dictator General Parwez Musharraf in October 2007 as part of a deal negotiated by the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to share power with the blessings of Washington. Unfortunately, Benazir was assassinated in December 2007 but her Party emerged as the leading party in the February 2008 elections due to a sympathy vote.
In a landmark decision, the apex court unanimously decided that the NRO was unconstitutional. All old cases that had been dismissed under the controversial ordinance stand revived and can now be reopened as per the court orders. The court said that all orders that were passed and all acquittals under the NRO were illegal and never existed. The apex court also said that all convictions that were held prior to the enactment of the NRO stand revived as well.