President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed ‘grave concern’ over the indictment of Federal Law Minister Babar Awan for robbery and attempted kidnapping.
A Rawalpindi court on Saturday indicted Awan after the federal minister personally appeared before it and pleaded not guilty, rejecting charges against him as baseless and politically motivated.
Public reaction by the head of the state against a court decision comes as surprise, indicating the extent of conflict between the government and the judiciary.
A statement issued by a presidential spokesperson, however, clarified that Zardari reacted to the indictment in his capacity as co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and not as president.
According to some experts, including Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir, the country’s ‘growingly independent’ judiciary was now overstepping its mandate at all levels, undermining the government and the parliament in some cases.
Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the PPP co-chairman termed the pursuit of a case pursued over 12 years after the alleged incident occurred to be “an unfortunate and glaring abuse of judicial processes for settling scores with a political opponent even as lip service was paid to democratic values, pluralism and judicial independence.”
Babar Awan has served as defense attorney for Asif Ali Zardari when the president was responding to cases instituted against him.
The renewal of case against Awan by the Punjab prosecutor, a province where PPP’s opponent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is in power, comes amid heated politicking between the two groups in recent months.
The PML-N last month expelled from the provincial cabinet ministers belonging to the PPP in a move that put both the parties on a ‘path of confrontation’ with their eyes set on upcoming elections after three years of fragile alliance.
Awan has been one of the vocal PPP figures against the PML-N’s rule in Punjab.
“The PPP co-chairman also expresses the hope that civil society, the bar associations and enlightened public opinion will take serious notice of it and condemned the pursuit of 12 years old case for political ends through brazen abuse of the judicial processes,” said the spokesperson.
Zardari also said the PPP stood by all its workers who had rendered sacrifices for democracy and human rights. The party would protect its workers from political harassment and intimidation, the co-chairman said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2011.
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