[JURIST] A special 17-member panel [press release, PDF] of the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Monday began hearing [press release, PDF] a legal challenge to an order [text] that grants President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] and 8,000 other government officials immunity from corruption charges. There has been speculation [Daily Times report] that the case may also address separate constitutional immunity granted to Zardari as head-of-state. Opponents of the National Reconciliation Ordinance claim that it violates Article 25 [text] of Pakistan's constitution, the UN Convention against Corruption [text, PDF], and general principles of justice. It is expected that Zardari will face numerous corruption charges [Telegraph report] if the order is invalidated.
The NRO was signed [JURIST report] by former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in 2007 as part of a power-sharing accord allowing former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] to return to the country despite corruption charges [JURIST report] she had faced. The ordinance also applies to similar charges against politicians who were charged, but not convicted, of corruption between 1988 and 1999.