[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Wednesday struck down [order, PDF] the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text], which granted President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] and 8,000 other government officials immunity from corruption charges. A special 17-member panel of court ruled unanimously that the NRO is unconstitutional [Dawn report], paving the way for corruption charges to be brought against Zardari. Zardari is immune from prosecution while in office, but challenges to his eligibility [NYT report] as a presidential candidate are expected. Many other government officials, including the interior minister and the defense could face immediate prosecution.
The court began hearing [JURIST report] the legal challenge earlier this month. 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.