Contempt case: To buy time, Gilani’s counsel argues on timing

Published: March 22, 2012

" You told the prime minister, who happens to be a ‘pir,’ that he deviated from the holy Quran by not writing the Swiss letter," PM counsel Aitzaz Ahsan to the Supreme Court bench. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

The premier’s advocate argued on timing to buy time for his client.

The prime minister never said he will not follow court orders, but he cannot comply with them during the incumbent president’s tenure, insisted Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan while representing Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the contempt of court case on Wednesday.

Presenting his arguments, Aitzaz said that the president enjoys immunity in 198 countries according to Article 248 of the Constitution, but refused to argue further.

“Since the president is not a party before the court in this case, I will not argue on Article 248 of the Constitution,” Ahsan said.

“However, I will defend the prime minister because he did not willfully disobey or disregard the apex court’s order and contempt should not be priority of the court if other options are available,” he added.

He drew the court’s attention to referring the matter to Parliament but Justice Nasirul Mulk, heading the seven-member trial bench, said the option was not to refer the entire case, but delinquency on the part of the prime minister.

“If the prime minister is proven guilty, the court will see which option should be exercised then,” said Justice Khosa.

Trial procedure

Aitzaz expressed his dissatisfaction over the contempt proceedings and termed the process ‘a fit example of a mistrial.’ He said the court order passed on January 10 was extremely harsh.

Criticising the six options laid down by the court in the order, Ahsan said: “You told the prime minister, who happens to be a ‘pir,’ that he deviated from the holy Quran by not writing the Swiss letter.”

“Also asked him to fulfill his oath,” Justice Khosa said.

Aitzaz also raised an objection over the trial bench, saying that the same bench had issued a show-cause notice to the prime minister earlier.

The case is always heard by the bench who issues the contempt notice, the bench replied.

“As 15 judges of the apex court have shown their consent in favour of the contempt trial against the prime minister, the objection on the trial bench is not valid,” Justice Khosa said.

Premier didn’t know

Aitzaz argued that the court had initiated proceedings against the prime minister ‘all of a sudden.’

Earlier, the law secretary, NAB chairman and prosecutor general and the attorney general of Pakistan were ordered to write the letter, not the prime minister, he said.

But on January 10, a show cause notice was served to the prime minister.

Ahsan claimed the attorney general did not convey the court’s order to the prime minister and has been unable to prove the same during submission of evidence in this regard.

The bench asked Aitzaz if the prime minister reads newspapers because it is impossible otherwise for him to not be aware of the court’s orders.

Ahsan replied that the court does not rely on media reports and that he will prove from records that the prime minister was not aware of the court’s instructions.

He added that the court’s order should be based on evidence and proof, rather than on assumptions.

Public trial

Aitzaz also criticised the media’s role, saying that a parallel trial is underway on the media.

Justice Athar Saeed replied that a trial is also underway at public gatherings, referring to headlines of newspapers in this regard.

Justifying the prime minister’s statements in political gatherings, Aitzaz said it was imperative for the premier to reply to allegations leveled against him by opponents.

The hearing was adjourned until Thursday.

Resignation not a ‘routine matter’

A shuffle in the cabinet is a routine matter, but my resignation is not, Prime Minister Gilani said on Wednesday while referring to the contempt case against him.

The premier said it was the president’s responsibility to ask the court for immunity, not his.

He added that he prefers to be convicted for contempt instead of being convicted as a violator of the Constitution.

Referring to his earlier statement where he had said that the chief justice is his friend, a journalist asked the premier whether he is in contact with ‘his friend’ for an out-of-court settlement.

Gilani replied that even the idea of an out-of-court settlement is contempt of the court.

“Once a friend, always a friend … His [chief justice’s] two friends: one who was part of his restoration and the other who was a part of the lawyers’ movement – both are present in the court in the case,” the prime minister had said.

(Read: To write or not to write)

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Mirza
    Mar 22, 2012 - 5:42AM

    It is clear that the court cannot touch the president as he enjoys immunity in Pakistan as well as all other countries. However, the court wants the govt of Pakistan (not the SC) to start the proceedings against the sitting president. If the case is so clear and the SC wants an action, why did the not pass an order and held the trial of president themselves? Pass a summary judgment and fax/email/mail/publish a copy/notice for Swiss court. Only one judge of SC or HC could do that instead of dozens of judges involved in one memo by Gilani and one memo by Ijaz, as if there is no other word for the highest courts in Pakistan. Why is PM being victimized for his not being a back stabber to PPP? As the PM has said repeatedly he is not Leghari.

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  • Doc
    Mar 22, 2012 - 6:43AM

    Well, I would like to say that the court is trespassing. If the constitution says immunity, it means immunity. What else does it mean. Now don’t take me wrong. I am not lover of Zardari……..never was actually. But if you want your country to be successful, follow the law in letter and spirit. Otherwise, it would be the law of jungle with the chief justice as the king of the jungle.

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  • HADI SAKEY
    Mar 22, 2012 - 6:48AM

    NRO was initially referred to the Parliament to make it a Law. The Parliament turned down the proposal therefore the S.C ordered opening of all cases pending in varous court. This action was taken prior to Mr. Zardari’s becoming President of Pakistan. The letter was written by Qayum AG without any authority. This letter has to be withdrawn and the case in Switzerland will be reopened. If the millions of Dollars belongs to Mr. Zardari, he should accept it or deny it. In case of denial he should write a letter to the Supreme Court and a letter to the Swiss Court. Mr Zardari has two option: (1) accept the money belonwgs to him (2) Deny that the money in foreign bank does not belong to him,.Period.
    Why all these fuss.

    HADI SAKEY

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  • Ch Allah Daad
    Mar 22, 2012 - 7:25AM

    The supreme court judges are wasting time. The PM has refused to accept their order. Remove him from office or resign collectively in protest.

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  • Mar 22, 2012 - 7:28AM

    @Mirza:
    Till now I thought only Intelligence agencies maintained their cyber forces and warriors. But now I suspect our political parties also maintain cyber wings. Such words can only come out of mouth filled with corruption money.

    Recommend

  • Soldier Bazari
    Mar 22, 2012 - 8:12AM

    Aitzaz Ahsan — hero of the restore the CJ campaign — finally shows his true colours!
    How long can a man hunger for power — make him a senator and he will stoop all the way to the National Assembly.

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  • Hafiz Shah Ali
    Mar 22, 2012 - 8:39AM

    Mr Aitazaz is a good example of private gain vs public good.

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  • ZIA
    Mar 22, 2012 - 8:47AM

    Was not the same Aitizaz saying the president does not enjoy immunity in civil cases. Why is this U-turn when he became counsel.

    Should not the people’s money be brought back?

    Suppose president enjoys immunity for the sake of argument then why the later cannot be written for the rest of the people involved.

    Is the govt not serious in the implementation of the court orders and trying to protect thieves and looters.Recommend

  • Mohsin
    Mar 22, 2012 - 8:49AM

    Nixon wasn’t allowed any presidential immunity when he tried to be clever, I don’t see why Zardari should be allowed this privilege either.

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  • Attif Abbas
    Mar 22, 2012 - 8:59AM

    Follow the law as Zardari follow it.
    Everything has right to natural immunity as per principal of Equity.

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  • Sehr.Siddiqui
    Mar 22, 2012 - 8:59AM

    The immunity to President, PM and Governors is available for their official conduct during their
    tenure as President,PM or governor. While the legislators were writing Article 184 the basic assumption was that nobody with tainted deeds and money laundering background will ever be the President, PM or Governor. Unfortunately this assumption has proved wrong. it is for the court to decide whether President has immunity or not. If a person does money laundering or murder in UK and subsequently becomes President of a country subsequently, will UK government not try that person? Our most respected black coat is has turned to be most hated turn coat. Why does he keep repeating that he is not arguing President’s immunity. He knows that he will be still on a weaker wicket than the present case in which he is arguing for PM.

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  • Yaida
    Mar 22, 2012 - 9:27AM

    The SC CJ is witch-hunting. This whole issue is just muscle-flexing by the executive and the judiciary. Important issues are being ignored in the process. The CJ should back off and let the country run instead of making it an ego issue – not that the country is being run well, mind you.

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  • ZIA
    Mar 22, 2012 - 9:37AM

    Check out following article (The immunity mystery) on immunity:

    http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/19/the-immunity-mystery.html

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Mar 22, 2012 - 9:52AM

    Much the best and excellent delaying tactics are being used by the PM Gillani and Supreme Court to allow to complete the PPP’s regime by appealing and taking/giving dates in this regard.Once again here I request you Mr. C.J.P. Ch. Iftikhar that close contempt of court case by PM Gillani and allow PPP to complete its tenure because there is nothing going to be changed by you “Mr. C.J.P. Ch. Iftikhar” because all efforts are being made only to secure and protect Zardari till his office’s tenure.

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  • syed Imran
    Mar 22, 2012 - 10:24AM

    @ Truth Exposed
    Mirza is a regular basher of our Institutions and I am always surprised that ET has never stopped posting his repeated derogatory messages(May be this is covered under the so called freedom of speech act). This man is a confirmed agent of our adversaries and is there monitoring each and every piece of information and commenting on those areas which gives a bad name to our Institutions. I hope PEMRA takes notice of this

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 22, 2012 - 11:33AM

    @syed Imran:
    He is an Indian troll and trashes the Judiciary and the Establishment on a daily basis. Mirza’s thesis is the same everyday – like cut and paste messages. ET for some reason wholly known to them allows him to regularly trash Pakistan. You will never see Mirza saying anything against US Congressmen Rohrabacher who is instigating a revolt against Pakistan by the Baluchis, or Senator Liebermann who rejects our Parliament’s Revised Terms of Engagement.

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