Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has nominated Justice Javed Iqbal to head the judicial commission to probe the Abbottabad operation, while Justice Saqib Nisar will head the commission to probe journalist Saleem Shahzad’s killing.
The government, through the law ministry’s secretary, had approached the Supreme Court registrar on Sunday to request the chief justice to appoint apex court judges to head inquiry commissions into the two incidents.
Earlier on Monday, the court temporarily disposed of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists’ (PFUJ) petition and directed that while nominating other members for the commissions, the government must keep in mind that their status should not be less than the president of the commission, ie, a judge of the Supreme Court.
At the outset of the hearing the PFUJ petition through Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jahangir, Chaudhry observed that while this petition is being heard, another journalist was reportedly tortured by police in Islamabad.
The chief justice informed the counsels about the government’s letters. While appreciating the government’s move, he observed, “All things should not come to the court, let the government do its job.” He asked Jahangir to take the time to decide whether she wants to pursue the petition or the formation of the commission.
After deliberations in Jahangir’s office with leading journalists, a consensus emerged that the petition will be withdrawn but under certain conditions. The bench was informed in writing about the decision.
Counsels Muneer A Malik and Jahangir told the court that Shahzad’s murder was a matter of basic human rights thus the scope of the judicial commission should be expanded.
They said that this pattern of harassment of journalists should also be investigated as 74 journalists have been killed in the recent past.
Terms of reference of the commission should be clearly spelt out and petitioners will have the right to file an application to reopen the case even if it is disposed off by the court.
The government’s representative, Babar Awan, assured the court that that government wants a transparent investigation into Shahzad’s murder and all agencies, including the Inter-Services Public Relations, have also supported the commission. We are committed and ready to go the extra mile, he said.
Chaudhry asked the counsels to make the commissions’ reports public as had earlier been done in the dyke breaching case and the Bank of Punjab scam. “If you will not do it, I will make it public,” he said.
The inspectors-general of Punjab and Islamabad police also submitted their reports to the bench.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2011.