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May 23, 2017

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Pakistan progresses in Zardari million-dollar corruption case

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's top court drew a line Wednesday under a showdown with the government over corruption allegations against the president which has dragged on for nearly three years.

Since December 2009, the Supreme Court has insisted that the government re-open multimillion-dollar graft cases against Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland that were frozen when he became head of state in 2008.

Earlier this year it convicted and dismissed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for refusing to ask Switzerland to re-open the cases, but the government appeared to back down last month by agreeing to write to the Swiss.

After weeks of wrangling over the wording, the Supreme Court on Wednesday approved a third draft of a letter to the Swiss authorities and asked for an update on the situation in four weeks.

"We found that the proposed communication conforms to the judgment of this court and it also expresses concern of the prime minister of Pakistan," judge Asif Saeed Khosa said, ordering another hearing on Nov. 14.

The government has long argued that it could not ask the Swiss to re-open the cases as the president has immunity from prosecution as head of state.

The full letter was not released, but portions read out in court asked the Swiss to disregard a 2008 communication the former attorney general sent to close proceedings against Zardari.

The letter also said it was sent "without prejudice" to any legal defense available to Zardari under Pakistan's constitution and international law — an allusion to his immunity as head of state.

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