Pakistan is set to be plunged into legal and political turmoil tomorrow when the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a 2007 measure which granted legal immunity to members of the ruling coalition, expires.
The expiration will expose President Asif Ali Zardari as well as Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, along with thousands of other ruling party officials, to various legal challenges over corruption and criminal activity.
Zardari would still be shielded from prosecution in any criminal cases so long as he remains in power, but the political consequences of cases involving him and other top officials could easily force him from office in disgrace.
The president, dubbed “Mr. 10 Percent” early in his political career as a result of his penchant for corruption and graft, was elected president in September 2008. His year in office has been remarkably tumultuous, marked by massive protests over political crackdowns on the opposition in the spring and almost constant warfare in the tribal areas.
Zardari has sought to extend the amnesty, but rulings in the nation’s supreme court have determined this would require an act of parliament, something which has itself been politically difficult to work out.