Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] on Tuesday pardoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik [official profile], convicted on corruption charges in 2004. Zardari issued the pardon after the Lahore High Court refused to throw out Malik's 2004 conviction. Malik was not present in Pakistan when he was convicted and sentenced to serve three years in prison. Last December, a Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Malik related to the corruption charges after the Supreme Court [official website] struck down an amnesty order [JURIST report] that would have granted him immunity. The Supreme Court ruled [order, PDF] that the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text], which granted immunity to Zardari and 8,000 other government officials, was unconstitutional. Zardari's pardon of Malik is seen as an example of the tension [BBC report] existing between the executive and judicial branches within Pakistan.
The court began hearing [JURIST report] the legal challenge to the NRO late last year. 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.