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Zardari urged to quit after court removes amnesty

Article published on the 2009-12-17 Latest update 2009-12-17 10:10 TU

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar says the president is protected(Photo: Reuters)

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar says the president is protected
(Photo: Reuters)

The opposition in Pakistan has called on President Asif Ali Zardari to step down from his position after a court overruled an amnesty that protects him and other senior government figures from prosecution.

"All the cabinet members must immediately tender their resignations," said Siddiqul Farooq, spokesman for the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).

"President Asif Ali Zardari should resign on moral grounds and should not depend upon the crutches of the constitution."

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court dismissed a 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) which contained the amnesty as unconstitutional, paving the way for thousands of criminal cases to be revived.

Zardari is immune from prosecution while in office but, with a number of corruption charges facing him at the time the NRO was passed, that immunity and his eligibility for the post of head of state could now be challenged.

Zardari, who took office in late 2008, has spent several years in jail for corruption and is still referred to as "Mr Ten per cent" because of his reputation for taking kickbacks on deals.

He has always denied the allegations saying they were politically-motivated.

Zardari spokesperson Farhatullah Babar told reporters outside the court that the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) would respect the verdict, but stressed that the President is protected.

"No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be constituted or continued in any court against the President ... during the tenure of office," he said.

The ruling comes as Pakistan battles a fierce Taliban insurgency, and raises questions about the stability of the civilian government, a key partner in the US "war on terror".

At least two people were killed on Thursday when missiles from an unmanned US aircraft slammed into a suspected militant hideout in Pakistan’s north-western tribal belt.

According to officials, the attack struck a house in the village of Dattakhel, about 30 kilometres west of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

The targeted building belonged to a local tribesman named Lahkta Mir but the identity and nationality of the two dead, who were killed as they parked a car outside a house, has not been released.

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