The chemistry is just not right. The apparent friction between Attorney General Irfan Qadir and the bench number one — being headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry — produces heated debate time and again.
This is also apparent in what is set to be the last legal battle over the fate of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The proceedings continue to draw heated arguments, warnings and even, in one case, the makings of a verbal clash between lawyers inside the courtroom.
Lawyers have twice registered their protest against the way the attorney general presents his side of the story to the bench hearing several petitions against the ruling of National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza in favour of Gilani’s qualification to remain the prime minister.
On the last day of hearing (Friday), a few lawyers shouted Attorney General Qadir off the rostrum when he rose out of turn to elaborate upon what Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan had been arguing. To the chief justice’s observation, Aitzaz had said that he had tried to seek suspension of the prime minister’s sentence, but the judges left the courtroom the moment they announced the order on April 26.
“Yes, the judges had run away,” Qadir declared just as Aitzaz finished his sentence. After he ignored the chief justice’s call for not using such language, lawyers shouted at the attorney general. “Sit down, sit down,” the courtroom briefly echoed with heated calls and warnings. The matter settled thanks to Justice Jawad S Khawaja’s intervention, highlighting the eminence of attorney general.
On Monday, too, the usual calm inside the courtroom was replaced with the exchange of a sharp debate between the chief justice and Qadir, when the latter spoke somewhat mockingly about one judge’s observations in the court ruling against Gilani in the contempt case.
As soon as the attorney general mentioned Justice Asif Saeed Khosa’s adaptation of Khalil Gibran’s poem, the chief justice sounded a ‘warning’ against mentioning another word about it. The attorney general said that, world over, law prohibits the use of poetry and that the premier was ridiculed through it.
During the hearing of the Arsalan Iftikhar suo motu case, Qadir had asked the chief justice not to be a part of the proceedings for the ‘code of conduct’ barred him from hearing his son’s case. Hot on the heels of this case, the chief justice started hearing the case involving the alleged killing of five girls in Kohistan.
The officials informed the chief justice that they have not been able to locate the girls because of bad weather and cultural barriers.
“Where is your code of conduct now,” the chief justice asked the attorney general, who, undaunted, shot back: “Why are you taunting me?”
Looking back, there is no love lost between Qadir and the apex court.
Qadir was first hit when the Supreme Court declared the imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007, to be unconstitutional and declared illegal the appointment of judges under the Provisional Constitutional Order. Qadir had been a judge of the Lahore High Court at that time.
Later, another bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, ruled against Qadir’s reappointment as National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor general. The bench decided that the NAB Ordinance did not allow the appointment of a person as prosecutor general twice (Qadir had also been the NAB prosecutor general during Gen Musharraf’s regime).
Further down the line, Qadir was appointed to the slot of attorney general – many say because his predecessor, Maulvi Anwarul Haq, was too soft spoken. Qadir was brought in to play on the proverbial front-foot in front of what was being viewed as an increasingly aggressive judiciary.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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