SC gives govt more time

Published: September 27, 2010

   Gilani says governments cannot be changed through speculation alone. PHOTO: EPA

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has accepted the government’s plea for the adjournment of the NRO implementation verdict. The court accepted the application for the delay in writing letters to the Swiss courts.

The case has been adjourned till October 13.

Earlier, the Attorney General of Pakistan had submitted an application on the government’s directives to adjourn the hearing of the National Reconciliation Ordinance’s (NRO) implementation.

According to sources, the petition asked for a postponement citing the Prime Minister’s national and international commitments as well as the ongoing flood crisis.

Speaking earlier, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had said that people who are rumour mongering about change will be disappointed as the government is here to stay for five years.

Gilani was speaking to the media in Islamabad on Monday. Speaking on the government’s letter on the adjournment of the NRO case, he said that the government had asked that the case be adjourned till the verdict on the review petition was announced.

On whether the government would write a letter to Swiss authorities for the re-opening of the cases, he said that the government has already requested for the adjournment of the case and will decide the next action after the outcome.

Gilani said that he had asked the NRO beneficiaries to voluntarily step down so that they could avoid being embarrassed once the names went public.

The Supreme Court has resumed the hearing of the implementation of the NRO verdict. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has presented a list of 36 NRO beneficiaries in the court.

Some of the names highlighted include Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Aftab Hamed Sher Pao and Brigadier Retired Imtiaz Ahmed.

According to the Bureau’s Prosecutor, 242 people, including the names presented, benefitted from the NRO.

Updated from print edition (below)

Showdown?

A nervy but defiant government threw down the gauntlet on Sunday with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani questioning the Supreme Court’s powers to amend the constitution ahead of a crucial hearing into cases involving dropped graft charges in Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The court will resume hearing on Monday of the case regarding the government’s non-implementation of its verdict on scrapping the ‘controversial’ National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a political-cum-legal deal between former president Pervez Musharraf and slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto.

A separate bench will also hear several petitions clubbed together against some clauses of the 18th constitutional amendment that the parliament approved early this year including one envisaging the parliamentary scrutiny of judges’ appointments in the higher judiciary.

“The Supreme Court does not have the right to amend the constitution… extra-constitutional steps will not be tolerated,” Gilani told a group of television anchors and senior columnists. The premier also ruled out the possibility of reopening the Swiss cases against the president. Analysts see his remarks as a red flag for a ‘lethal’ confrontation between the executive and the judiciary.

Yet, at the same time, Gilani voiced hope that the court would not issue any order that would destabilise the country politically. “The economic stability of Pakistan depends upon smooth functioning of political institutions,” the premier told reporters during a surprise visit  to one of Islamabad’s weekly bazaar.

This indicates that the government is ready to confront the increasingly-assertive apex court should it press the authorities to write a letter to Swiss attorneys for reopening graft cases against President Zardari.

In such an event it will submit a summary in the court, arguing that Zardari, by virtue of being the head of state, enjoyed immunity under the still-uninterrupted Article 248 of the constitution.

Gilani told the Senate last Friday that since parliament was an integral part of the constitution it alone could revoke the president’s immunity from prosecution.  “Half of his term is over … and if somebody wants to drag him to court, (they) should wait for another two and a half years,” the premier had said.

But, according to officials close to the rapidly unfolding political developments, Gilani’s government has decided in principle to remove from key official slots the other beneficiaries of the NRO, including some close associates of the president.

It is unclear whether some federal ministers against whom the cases were dropped under the October 2007 ordinance would also be asked to step down.

In Friday’s speech to the upper house, Gilani called upon the top bureaucrats, who had benefited from the NRO and were still holding official posts, to quit themselves.  However, he did not say a word about the federal ministers who had extracted similar benefits from the NRO.

Key players and change

In an interaction with senior anchors, Gilani, however, sought to ease speculation that the government might be collapsing.  “Those who wish to send the government packing through unconstitutional ways will be disappointed,” he said.

The premier said he met Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry a couple of days ago and would be having another session with him soon. He, however, refused to share with media what transpired between him and Justice Chaudhry in the meeting.

“I have a meeting scheduled with Chief of the Army Staff (General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani) today,” he disclosed.

Also on Sunday evening, Gilani said he talked to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over the phone and both agreed to resolve political as well as administrative issues through mutual understanding.

Message to the court

Gilani was not the only one who came up with a carefully-worded message for the Supreme Court not to ‘encroach’ upon parliament’s domain.

Last Friday, a parliamentary committee that crafted together the 18th constitutional amendment cautioned the court against undermining parliament’s supremacy by challenging its decisions.

“The parliament is a sovereign institution. It has the right to amend the constitution and laws the way it wants … no other organ of the state can overrule its decisions,” a participant quoted committee members as saying.

On Sunday, an aide to the premier, Sardar Latif Khosa, questioned on constitutional grounds the extension in the services of higher court judges.

“The Supreme Court did it following the law of necessity,” Khosa said in a veiled message for the higher judiciary, indicating that the government may retaliate if pressed further.

He also rejected a ‘widely-accepted’ notion that the Supreme Court could call the military to implement its decisions, arguing it was possible only with the consent of the federal government.

Separately in Karachi, a parliamentary party meeting of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), vowed to defend democracy “at any cost”.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2010.


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Reader Comments (20)

  • Sep 27, 2010 - 9:40AM

    The govt has no grounds to stand on. It better put its act together and submit its cronies to accountability. Judgements of the Supreme Court have to be accepted, you can differ with them, but cannot disobey them.Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Sep 27, 2010 - 9:57AM

    People have a choice between democratic dispensation of “RULE OF LAW UNDER THE CONSTITUTION” or Judicial “LAW OF NECESSITY”.
    If the Constitution is followed than Government stance is correct. However if one believes in “Law of necessity” than Judiciary is “MIGHTY” right.Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Sep 27, 2010 - 10:46AM

    • There is a deliberate effort to undermine the authority of Parliament after 18Th Amendment. A powerful lobby of Punjabi Nationalists does not want that Pakistan should be run as a Parliamentary system and they want absolute powers. This lobby is aggrieved after the NFC award and 18th amendment. They are using all available tools of destabilization to further their vested interests. This includes individuals and institutions under the “like minded” people.
    The game is extremely dangerous for the Federal Structure of Pakistan. If you watch the television discussions on this matter you will find people of Pakhtun Khwa, Balochistan and Sindh are not included in this discussion. This a a well thought out scheme to make people believe that overwhelming majority is siding with anti democratic forces. The federalists in Punjab are loosing TV battle to the anti democratic forces. Thanks to the “gang of ten” TV anchors.Recommend

  • Ahmed Lakho
    Sep 27, 2010 - 11:50AM

    I totally agree with Asmat Jamal. One has to put his foot down to literal blackmail by the SC. I hope the government once and for all stands up to blackmailersRecommend

  • imran
    Sep 27, 2010 - 12:33PM

    The country is going to dogs, all those who matter must realiize that its Pakistan versus the rulers. A stitch in time saves nine.Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed
    Sep 27, 2010 - 1:01PM

    @ Asmat… hahaha shut up! You don’t make sense. This is just desperation.

    This government is so shameless that they have used flood and its victims as a scapegoat for their inability, ineptness and down right refusal to follow supreme court orders…
    I am not surprised given that they used BB’s murder and do politics over slain leaders.

    Supreme Court…Chief Justice of Pakistan, 180 million people’s hopes are rested on your shoulders today… DO NOT DISAPPOINT PLEASE!Recommend

  • Copper
    Sep 27, 2010 - 1:30PM

    Despite serious reservations against PPPP government and despite being strong proponent of free judiciary, I think now its overstepping its limit. If supreme court didn’t respect constitutional amnesty to Zardari, we will have a judicial marshal law soonRecommend

  • zulfiqar baig
    Sep 27, 2010 - 1:39PM

    good luck pakistanRecommend

  • Zeeshan
    Sep 27, 2010 - 1:41PM

    Swiss cases against Mr Zardari must be reopened “Justice has to be done” if he has immunity as being the head of state such immunities must also be removed by Supreme court as no one should be beyond or above Law, What if he commits a murder would he not be trialled because he’s the “Head of State”. Secondly beneficiaries of NRO who are all corrupt culprits must also be trialled no matter what. This decision from Supreme court has send shock-waves amongst the Supreme corrupt of this corrupt, illiterate and dis-functional regime they call “Democratic Govt”.
    Its about time that we get rid of corruption and people (let it be so called “Head of State”) who comes with it.

    @Asmat : grow up there’s no conspiracy against any one – stop watching those political soap’s and be realistic – Its been more than 60 years of this divide about Sindhi,Punjabi,Muhajir etc…

    Pakistan – Zindabad !Recommend

  • Shahid
    Sep 27, 2010 - 1:54PM

    If the government think that the President is innocent and has not done any thing wrong then what is harm in opening Swiss cases and settling them once for all. Unfortunately, we may finger point on our own investigating institutions / courts however, believe that the investigations by western agencies / courts would be unbiased. So, let the process of justice followed no matter whether its in Pakistan or Swiss courts.Recommend

  • Jabbar Kakar
    Sep 27, 2010 - 2:01PM

    @Adeel Ahmed, You appear to be quite desperate. You want to tell us that the judges were elected by 180 million people of Pakistan. Your words are unparlimentery like your judicial leaders.
    Constitution of Pakistan will be defended against the PCO walas Recommend

  • Arfan
    Sep 27, 2010 - 2:07PM

    @Asmat – What are you on? Retards with a desposition towards provincialism are a burden on the soil of Pakistan! The sooner they are removed the better! Be they Presidents/PMs or any other ‘elected’ body…

    Regards the tone of your comment – it is completely offensive to any Pakistani, and take it from me, I am a Sindhi (using your temrinology) but I have never stated this as it makes no difference…

    The floods hurt Pakistan, the Vadera ruined Sindh and the PAKISTAN army helped us, not Sindhi Vaderas, or Baluchi Nawabs, or Pathan Khans nor Punjabi Chaudharys – they are relic of a byegone era and they should be removed, bagged and stuck 6ft below the ground (of our neighbour)… They for one aren’t Pakistanis!

    Re the SC – Go for it My Honour! The nation is behind you and we want our money back Recommend

  • Gangly Khan
    Sep 27, 2010 - 2:49PM

    Parliament members including PM and president were elected by people according to the constitution for five years term. Whether they are good or bad but they have public mandate. People talking of change on one pretext or other should tolerate them for 5 years. I am sure during next elections public will again elect the same people. So far corruption of leaders, everyone is corrupt. There is no exemption. Government is a business of elite to loot the public to lead their lives comfortably. It has been practice in the past and it will remain in future as well. We the poor people have no interest in change. We pray for justice and security.Recommend

  • Mohsin Hijazee
    Sep 27, 2010 - 3:13PM

    I do not understand why this case is so horrible for government. PPPP is a political party in power and cases of 8000+ people were withdrawn by an illegal sitting president by an illegal ordinance. If that ordinance is correct then why not pardon all the thieves and murderers in the jails too? Why just selected few 8000?

    And then it happens that handful of people from that list are part of the government coincidently one of them being president. Now the crime of presidents are committed and are in the courts even before he was president. No new case is being filed at all its not against article 248. The verdict only says that the cases of 8000 should go back to the positions they are. Simple as that.

    People like Asmat and any other can weep and should weep and must weep at any cost (or should be made like so) as its a pleasure for common people who believe in rule of law against and above any political affiliation.

    The solution is pretty simple. Just reopen the cases and let them resign who fall short of eligibility. PPPP would be still in power. They can pick up any other senator as president and that’s it. What’s the big deal? Even in this government many ministers resigned including a lady and the drunk Jatoi yesterday. Recommend

  • Sep 27, 2010 - 3:17PM

    Those who have plundered the state and indulged in money laundering should be made to return the looted money, otherwise this is just waste of time. It is the people of Pakistan, who alone have a right over the national exchequer and not any bureaucrat, elected politician or a general. As for Mr Zardari he was behind bars not as a prisoner of conscience but for financial irregularities. He was behind bars for more than 10 years, yet during this period his assets have mutiplied manifold. The same explanation is needed for the assets of Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain, Ch Shujaat, Afsandyar Wali, Musharraf, Zahid Ali Akbar, Brig Niaz, Zarrar etc. All this money must be returned back, otherwise this will only encourage more corruption. Look at the unbelievable assets of some serving bureaucrats, who own luxurious houses and apartments in central London, Dubai, Canada, USA, Spain etc. There should be ZERO TOLERANCE for corruption and anybody caught must not be let off merely with imprisonment. If Hamesh Khan can be repatriated from America and others from Malaysia, than it only proves that Where There Is A Will, There Is A Way. Let us uphold the ideals of Quaid e Azam and Allama Iqbal in Pakistan, instead of these carpet beggars, for whom politics is a gateway to get rich only. People of Pakistan today have faith only in Supreme Court of Pakistan and would desire democracy in this country and not LOOTOCRACY.Recommend

  • Ahmed Lakho
    Sep 27, 2010 - 3:52PM

    Just look at the language of those in support of the judiciary! you guys make me sick! have some toleranceRecommend

  • must mola
    Sep 27, 2010 - 5:09PM

    nothing happen, goverment complete there five years and “The case has been adjourned till end of GovermentRecommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Sep 27, 2010 - 10:27PM

    Time is running out.

    The verdict of Supreme Court should be implemented to avoid embarrassment.

    PPP government did not evaluated pros and cons before awarding tickets to candidates and inducting NRO beneficiaries in the government.

    Sooner of later, NRO beneficiaries would have to quit the jobs. The sitting government should start looking around replacement of NRO beneficiaries.

    There is not a single day when I hear good news. This is the main reason that foreign and local investments have almost come to a complete halt.

    To improve the image, Pakistan must come out from the present crises. Recommend

  • imran
    Sep 28, 2010 - 1:24PM

    Disappointed. This should be the final adjournment otherwise stop it as the nation of the depressed can not take it anymore.Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Oct 1, 2010 - 1:06PM

    @Arfan . My dear brother, the spelling of your name suggest that you are not Sindhi. You are the one about whom I have writtenRecommend

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