Split emerges in PPP over judicial crisis

Asim Awan May 10, 2010

ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court mounts pressure on the government to implement its judgment on the defunct National Reconciliation Ordinance, the PPP is divided into two camps on the issue of how to deal with the challenge.

The SC wants the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen cases against President Zardari. The government is not willing to oblige, say observers.

A senior PPP leader told The Express Tribune that in last Monday’s meeting of the party’s core committee, the issue was thoroughly debated with Raza Rabbani, Naveed Qamar and Khursheed Shah asking for a change in the current policy.

The PPP leader who confided to The Express Tribune was exceedingly worried over the developing situation and came down hard upon Babar Awan. This member of the core committee said the Prime Minister is in favour of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities.

Gilani is reported to believe that no harm will come out of it because the Swiss Attorney General had made it clear that the Swiss authorities would not re-open the case against President Zardari. Also, said the PPP leader, it is clear in international law that under the concept of sovereign immunity a sitting head of state cannot be prosecuted in a foreign country.

“If we write the letter to the Swiss authorities it would end up in a waste bin because they would not act on it. So what’s the harm in writing the letter?” said the insider.

He further revealed that Prime Minister Gilani is very upset over the situation. But the Prime Minister is not willing to oppose President Zardari on this issue although the PM is being urged upon by some advisors to act and get the letter written to the Swiss Authorities to avoid a head on collision with the Supreme Court.

The PPP member confided that the Prime Minister is also unhappy with the law minister: “The PM says that Babar Awan is a criminal lawyer not a constitutional lawyer. He says a criminal lawyer usually goes for confrontation while a constitutional lawyer deals with issues in a different way.” The party insider says that the Prime Minister was also in favour of reinstatement of the deposed judges but at that time President Zardari had refused to accept his point of view on the advice of Babar Awan, Lateef Khosa, Rehman Malik and Salman Farooqi.

Now, says the PPP leader, Rehman Malik and Salman Farooqi are not maintaining a hawkish attitude with regard to the Supreme Court as they have learnt a lesson from the fiasco of imposing Governor’s rule in Punjab which they had proposed.

But Babar Awan and Lateef Khosa continue to advocate defiance. And, said the PPP high-up, it seems that for the moment President Zardari is listening to the hawks. The senior PPP leader said the judges had to be restored under pressure of the long march and by behind the scene intervention of the army chief and again it is feared that the current crisis would also be resolved after a quiet intervention by the army “which is not good for democracy.”

The PPP is also upset with the PML-N. A PPP leader said that the party had hoped that Nawaz Sharif would share the PPP point of view that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to strike down any clause of a constitutional amendment passed by the parliament. The PPP veteran said “unfortunately Nawaz Sharif only thinks of short term gains.

He has shot himself in the foot by siding with those who say the court can strike down a constitutional amendment. He doesn’t realise that tomorrow he will be the Prime Minister and then his hands would be tied when dealing with the judiciary.” Ahsan Iqbal had given a positive statement that the court did not have the authority to strike down any clause of the constitution passed by the Parliament but then Iqbal was overruled by Chaudhry Nisar, Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif. The PML-N has compromised on the sovereignty of parliament.”

A senior PML-N leader Siddiqul Farooq told The Express Tribune “The PML-N is all out for implementation of the Supreme Court judgment on NRO in letter and spirit. We also uphold the constitution and the powers enshrined in it regarding parliament and judiciary.” Farooq also said that his party has no doubt that the Supreme Court can constitutionally declare an article or clause of an article of the Constitution approved by the Parliament void if in the opinion of the Court it is againt the spirit of the Constitution”.

The PPP leader who talked to The Express Tribune believes that given the current situation the government is on a very weak wicket. The insider said the wise course of action for President Zardari would be to agree to what PM Gilani, Raza Rabbani, Khursheed Shah and Naveed Qamar are saying. “They are old PPP loyalists whose credentials are beyond doubt. While Babar Awan is still seen by a large number of party activists as an outsider,” he said.

Options open before the Supreme Court

It is the track record of the present government that first they create a crisis themselves and then they back down,” ex-Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui said on Sunday, while commenting on the ongoing tussle over the implementation of the NRO judgment of December 16.

When asked what options are available with the Supreme Court to get its judgment implemented, Justice Siddiqui was of the view that the Supreme Court can constitute a commission or can also nominate a person for the implementation of its judgment. He added that the Apex Court also has the authority to summon the concerned officials in contempt of court.

“Article 190 of the constitution clearly states that all organs of the state are duty bound to honor the orders of the Supreme Court and the court can order cases ordered against those who will violate the orders” Justice Siddiqui said. To another question, Justice Siddiqui said that the army is also duty bound to obey the Supreme Court’s orders “if the court seek them to implement its orders.”

He said that in the time of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, the army was called to iimplement its orders when he suspended the 13th and 14th Amendment. “No one can himself decide despite the court’s clear orders that the chapter have been closed.

They should go the Supreme Court and make them aware about the problems and hindrances in their way of implementing the judgment and then the Supreme Court will determine the future plan of action” Justice Siddiqui said. Another constitutional expert, Senator S M Zafar said that there is no situation of confrontation between the government and the Supreme Court on the NRO issue at present “but they are fast heading towards it.” To a question he replied that the Supreme Court first will summon Secretary Law as it did in recent days.

The court can summon the law minister and then it can also summon the prime minster and if the prime minister gives appropriate reasons, then the court would try to pave an easier way for the prime minster to implement the court judgment. Leader of the opposition in the senate, Waseem Sajjad, was of the view that the judgment of the Supreme Court is binding on all state organs.

The court has a lot of options but these cannot be speculated upon as to what they would do in terms of the NRO judgment, Wasim Sajjad said. Ex-Judge Supreme Court, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, said that the NRO issue and 18th amendment issue “are not of much importance” adding the “common man is least bothered about these issues.” -- Qaiser Zulfiqar

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