It’s back to square one for the government. Having spent less than a week in the prime minister’s office, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been presented a conundrum that led to the ousting of his predecessor: How does one not write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari without committing contempt of court?
While hearing the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case on Wednesday, the apex court ordered Prime Minister Ashraf to submit a written response by July 12 to the court on whether or not he will write a letter. A three-member bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk ordered Attorney General Irfan Qadir to get in touch with Ashraf and inform the court about the premier’s stance.
In its written order, the Supreme Court’s message to the incumbent chief executive rang out loud and clear: “As far as non-implementation of para 178 of the judgment is concerned, the former prime minister (Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani) was tried, convicted and sentenced, and as a consequence he lost membership of Parliament.
The new prime minister was elected last week and we trust him to implement the directives (of the court). In the meanwhile, the attorney general is directed to seek instructions from prime minister (and submit the same in the court by July 12).”
The attorney general, known for his less than amiable relationship with the court, reiterated his stance and told The Express Tribune that the court should not press the government for the letter. He said that he agreed with Law Secretary Yasmin Abbasi’s view that former attorney general Malik Qayyum’s correspondence with Swiss authorities to close cases against President Zardari was valid – therefore, he argued, there was no need for the government to take any action against Qayyum or overturn his communication.
Wasim Sajjad, the counsel for Qayyum, told the court that his client was currently admitted in a hospital in London. He urged the court to review its order regarding Qayyum and asked the government to take action against him accordance with the law. He also asked for more time to present his arguments.
In a related case regarding the illegal appointment of Adnan A Khawaja as the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) chairperson by former premier Gilani, Justice Mulk asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) how they could state Gilani had been unaware that Khawaja was a convicted person – considering Gilani and Khwaja had in fact spent time in jail together.
The Supreme Court had earlier directed NAB to hold an inquiry to fix responsibility for appointing a convicted person (an NRO beneficiary) as the OGDCL chairperson.
Advocate Hamid Khan told The Express Tribune that the court has given a chance to the new prime minister and the government should take benefit of it – before the court exercises other options to revive cases against President Zardari. He added that the court was unlikely to go into the nitty gritty of the case this time and would decide this issue soon after receiving a reply from premier Ashraf.
On Tuesday, an application was filed in the Supreme Court praying that contempt proceedings be initiated against Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for giving a statement that he will not write a letter to Swiss authorities.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.