Monday, June 24, 2024
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Memogate case in SC: Govt drafts response on Zardari’s behalf

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Islamabad: As President Asif Ali Zardari recuperates in a Dubai hospital, Pakistan government’s legal team is drafting a response to be submitted on his behalf to the Supreme Court in the ‘memogate’ scandal case. With Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani making it clear on Tuesday that Zardari will not return to Pakistan for at least another two weeks, the President will not be in the country when the apex court hears the case demanding a probe into the scandal on December 19.

While admitting several petitions seeking a probe into the matter, including one filed by main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, the apex court had on December 1 sought responses in 15 days from the President, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Pakistan’s former envoy to the US, Husain Haqqani and Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz who made the memo public.

In the memo sent to the US military, the Pakistani civilian leadership purportedly sought its help in averting a possible coup in the wake of the covert American raid that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May.

“The President will submit his reply before the court even if he does not return from Dubai,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the media. He said a “final decision” on the President’s return would be made after consulting the doctors treating him. The government’s legal team is preparing the President’s reply to the Supreme Court.

The reply will not be a lengthy one and it will try to prove Zardari’s innocence, contending that he has nothing to do with the memo allegedly presented to the US military chief through Mansoor Ijaz, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

A nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is hearing the petitions related to the memogate controversy. Senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party have alleged that the apex court took action in the matter without giving the government an opportunity to present its views. The government is in “no hurry” to file the President’s reply in the Supreme Court because it was currently engaged in a case related to the request to review the death sentence awarded to former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, said former Law Minister Babar Awan, a close aide of Zardari.

The Supreme Court also ordered the constitution of a commission to investigate the memogate scandal. However, the retired police officer who was asked by the court to head the commission has turned down the request. The court is expected to name the new head of the panel at the next hearing on December 19. The apex court has barred former envoy Husain Haqqani from leaving Pakistan till the probe on the memogate scandal is completed. The secret memo had also committed Pakistan government to wide-ranging changes in its national security set-up, including the removal of military officials believed to have links to militants.

Also, Pakistani envoys posted in key world capitals, including New Delhi and Beijing, gathered here on Monday with top political and military leaders for a meeting that will provide inputs for a proposed foreign policy revamp.

Envoys in 15 countries, including India, China, Germany and Saudi Arabia, are attending the two-day meeting that will discuss different aspects of Pakistan’s foreign policy and make recommendations for refashioning Islamabad’s ties with key countries like the US and India, officials said.

On Monday’s session, chaired by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, was attended by Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne and Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. Ambassador-designate to the US Sherry Rehman, too attended the meeting.

The Foreign Office convened the meeting after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for a sweeping overhaul of Pakistan’s policy for the war on terrorism and ties with the US and other countries in the wake of the cross-border NATO attack on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Sources said the ISI chief and the chairman of the

Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee briefed the meeting on the NATO air strike, which military officials have described as a “unprovoked act of blatant aggression”, the current status of military ties with the US and the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan. (PTI)

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