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