The Supreme Court on Saturday formed a five-member larger bench to hear the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) implementation case next week.
Constituted by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the five-member larger bench will be headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprise Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed.
The apex court is set to take up NRO-related cases on July 12 – the deadline for Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to decide whether to comply with the orders of court by writing a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
During the last date of hearing on June 27, a three-member bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, stated in its written order: “… the new prime minister was elected last week and we trust him that he will honour the direction given by this court.In the meantime we direct the attorney general of Pakistan (Irfan Qadir) to seek instructions from the prime minister and inform the court on the next date of hearing ie on July 12”.
Head of the newly formed five-member bench, Justice Khosa was also one of the seven judges who tried and convicted former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for not complying with its orders to write the Swiss letter.
Justice Khosa’s separate note containing Khalil Gibran’s revolutionary poetry in the detailed judgment regarding Gilani’s conviction was also widely discussed.
Before the constitution of the seven-judge bench for the trial of Gilani, Justice Khosa was heading a five-judge NRO implementation bench of the Supreme Court and had set six options for the implementation of the court order on the NRO and referred the matter to the chief justice for constitution of the larger bench.
The chief justice then constituted the seven-judge bench that initiated contempt of court proceedings against Gilani and subsequently convicted him of contempt.
Following that, a three-judge bench, hearing identical petitions against the National Assembly speaker’s ruling in favour of Gilani, set aside her decision and dismissed Gilani as the country’s prime minister.
The chief justice observed in the detailed order of the case that a “dangerous precedent” would be set if the highest executive of the country would not comply with court orders, paralysing the judicial system of the country.
The new prime minister faces similar pressure, as the court turned down an international immunity plea by the government for the office of the president. The court stated that writing a letter to the Swiss authorities regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, declaring the NRO annulled, has nothing to do with presidential immunity.
Swiss authorities shelved the NRO cases in 2008 when two letters were written by then attorney general Malik Muhammad Qayyum after a deal was inked between then military regime of Pervez Musharraf and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2012.