Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The opposition is calling for the resignation of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his political allies, after the Supreme Court's decision to remove the amnesty that protected him from corruption charges. Zardari denies all charges, rejects the calls to leave office and talks about "political motivations" behind the judiciary’s attack.
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that the decree protecting the president and his political allies against charges of corruption is "illegal." The controversial norm - which granted amnesty to senior members of parliament - was introduced by former head of state Pervez Musharraf. Better known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, it has blocked all investigations concerning corruption and criminal cases pending against 8 thousand people including ministers, officials and politicians.
The law is the result of an agreement with the U.S. government and allowed the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (and herallies) to return from exile, avail of immunity and participate in active politics in the country. Bhutto and members of her party - the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) - have repeatedly insisted that the accusations were "politically” motivated. Zardari, Bhutto's husband, took control of the party after the murder of his wife, who died in an attack December 27, 2007 during a campaign rally.
The court ruling has once again inflamed the political climate in Pakistan, engaged in a tough fight against the Taliban in the north-west and in containing the fundamentalist wing of the country. There is a common front that agrees that Zardari should enjoy immunity as president; the opposition, however, puts in doubt his eligibility to lead the state. At the time of his candidacy, in fact, criminal proceedings were to be initiated against him.
The judiciary had begun several inquiries against him. At the hearing yesterday, the Supreme Court provided evidence of the alleged personal assets of the president, allegedly amassed through corruption and illegal business deals. His popularity in the country is falling sharply and even relations with the army - one of the strong powers of Pakistan - are in crisis.
Critics point out that "he is morally obliged to resign." Khawaja Asif, a leading figure in the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League, adds that the decision to leave is "in its own interests, the interests of his party and good of the nation."