ISLAMABAD, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Supreme Court of Pakistan started hearing petitions challenging the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) on Monday, according to local TV channel reports.
A 17-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is conducting hearing. The hearing is related to petitions filed by former Pakistan People's Party stalwart Dr. Mubashar Hasan and retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan at the Supreme Court.
The petitions challenge the NRO on the grounds that it violates the fundamental rights of the people, is against political justice and also contravenes the United Nations Convention against corruption to which Pakistan is a signatory.
Acting Attorney General of Pakistan Shah Khawar told media Monday that the Pakistani government will not defend NRO cases in the SC, and all provincial governments will also refuse to defend the NRO.
The Chief Justice has appointed three amicus curiae to assist the court on the issue. These advocates had also been appointed as amicus curiae in Oct. 2007 to assist the Supreme Court on the NRO issue.
The apex court has issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan, the petitioners and the respondents for the above date of hearing.
The court will also be hearing other petitions against the NRO.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf promulgated the NRO in 2007 as part of a political deal to allow current President Asif Ali Zardari's wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to return from years of exile to Pakistan.
The NRO provided immunity to leaders and officials from cases registered during 1985-1999. The Pakistani government released thelist of the beneficiaries of the NRO on Nov. 21. A total of 8,041 people were benefited from the ordinance including many bureaucrats, diplomats and government officials.
Zardari, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, were also on the list of beneficiaries.
According to a verdict of the SC, the NRO expired on Nov. 28. Pakistani State Minister for Law Afzal Sindhu said that it would be up to the apex court to hear and decide the cases.
Legal experts have called the formation of the larger bench "a step in the right direction" in view of the significant implications of the decision on the legality of an ordinance whosebeneficiaries include President Zardari and four federal ministers.
The experts believe the court would not only decide the fate ofthe beneficiaries, but would also determine the scope and parameters of the constitutional immunity available to the head ofstate. They say the result of the case would have far-reaching effects both constitutionally and politically.