The Supreme Court’s eagerness to rewrite the rules of the power game in the country was on full display on Thursday.
The court issued warnings to the executive, both civilian and military, against any move that would delay the upcoming polls on the basis of a controversial letter written by the NAB chief to the president.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry made the remarks after NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari wrote to the president, accusing the superior judiciary of putting “extreme pressure” on officers investigating graft allegations against top political leaders, including the prime minister.
In his letter, the NAB chairman had also accused the court of indulging in a campaign that could loosely be seen as a form of “pre-poll rigging”.
On Thursday, NAB Prosecutor General K K Agha read out the text of the letter sent by the bureau’s chairman as the bench had directed that a verified copy of the letter be presented in court.
When Agha read out the words “pre-poll rigging” from the letter in court today, the chief justice said, “Deviation from the Constitution or introducing any other system not recognised by the Constitution shall not be acceptable.”
“The executive, both civilian and military, will not take any actions and steps that are tantamount to delaying the election in the name of the judiciary and judges on the basis of this letter,” said Chaudhry, while summoning Bokhari to appear on February 4 to answer accusations of contempt for the contents of his letter to President Asif Ali Zardari. Earlier, on January 15, the court had ordered NAB to arrest the prime minister in the rental power projects (RPP) case.
Fresh spin on letter
A new spin was later put on the issue when Law Minister Farooq H Naek said that President Asif Ali Zardari was considering looking at the NAB chairman’s letter as a resignation.
“The president will look into his letter. He will see if it was his [Bokhari’s] resignation letter,” Naik told reporters. Naek said the president has sent him a copy of the letter with the aim of seeking his opinion. Naek made it clear that the PPP-led government did not want any confrontation with the judiciary.
‘Obstructing justice, maligning the court’
“It is amazing that such a scandalous letter is written to shatter the public confidence [in the judiciary] at a time when a number of important cases, including rental power projects (RPPs) in which the incumbent prime minister is an accused and other corruption cases, are also pending before the judiciary,” the chief justice said. Under similar apprehensions, he said former president Pervez Musharraf had imposed emergency rule in the country.
Referring to Bokhari’s missive, the chief justice observed that its contents were tantamount to interfering and obstructing the process of the court, while also attempting to malign the court and its performance with an aim to undermine its authority.
“This court, undoubtedly, enjoys the confidence of citizens of this country,” said the written order, adding that the court would continue to insist on the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution.
The court also ordered imminent general elections to go ahead as planned in a bid to quash fears a fledgling democratic process is about to be derailed.
The court also took notice of statements made by top government officials, including PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, who claimed a conspiracy was being hatched “by certain elements” to delay the election by two or three years.
Citing a court judgment, the chief justice made it clear that there could not be any delay in the upcoming polls which will be held transparently, fairly, justly and strictly according with the Constitution and without any interference or hurdles from any quarter.
Addressing NAB prosecutor general, the chief justice asked whether the NAB chairman’s letter was the right course to address the bureau’s grievances.
In reply, Agha said Bokhari had reservations over the court’s position on the NAB mandate as defined in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, adding that the chairman could have been frustrated due to the tight deadlines for investigations.
“I myself became petitioner and approached this court with grievances,” the chief justice said, referring to the time when he was deposed twice by Musharraf.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2013.