A day after releasing a hard-hitting press release against the prime minister, the army has decided it will throw its weight behind the Supreme Court – which is embroiled in its own standoff with the government.
Top commanders who met with army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday appear to have their eyes set on the apex court to deal a decisive blow against the beleaguered incumbents.
The army chief held consultations with select corps commanders and principal staff officers to discuss the evolving situation at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi – meetings for which there was no official statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
However, military officials confirmed the long consultation sessions with top commanders over the army’s deepening rift with the government.
According to a military tations, the military decided that it will stand behind the Supreme Court, which has already warned the government that it could disqualify the prime minister if the government failed to take action on its verdict in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) cases by January 16.
The army will certainly consider assisting the judiciary if help was sought to implement the court’s decision, the official added requesting anonymity.
“The army will follow the legal course and if the Supreme Court directs the army for any assistance, we are legally bound to respond to that,” he said.
The apex court has spelt out six options for itself to exercise in case the executive failed to implement the court order before January 16, the next date of hearing.
Legal experts believe that the Supreme Court can invoke Article 190 of the Constitution to ensure implementation of its verdict. The Article says that “all executive and judicial authorities in Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.”
Some constitutional experts are of the view that the apex court may also seek the assistance of the military to implement its order under Article 190.
There has been an instance in the past when Justice Sajjad Ali Shah had written a letter to the then army chief Gen Jahangir Karamat, who served under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, seeking military help to provide security to the Supreme Court in view of a possible attack. However, Gen Karamat forwarded the letter to the defence ministry.
Justice Sajjad Ali Shah did not invoke Article 190, instead he wrote a letter in his administrative capacity, said Supreme Court lawyer Justice Tariq Mehmood. He argued that it was beyond his comprehension for the military to help in the implementation of Supreme Court verdicts.
“Will the military takeover the government affairs? Will they force the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities at gunpoint,” he asked rhetorically.
Another Supreme Court lawyer Justice Salman Akram Raja, who argued against the NRO, endorsed the view saying, “The army has nothing to do with this.”
But there are others who believe the army is bound to help the court if Article 190 is invoked.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.