As protests in Karachi turned violent and a strike paralysed Sindh, President Asif Ali Zardari sought the advice of the prime minister and the parliamentary opposition leader on re-appointing Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday, a day after the Supreme Court ordered his removal.
Zardari wrote separate letters to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and National Assembly Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to seek their opinion as part of a consultative process “mandatory for such an appointment,” said a spokesperson for the president.
The move came a day after the Supreme Court declared illegal the appointment of Deedar as the head of the country’s top accountability body in response to a petition filed by Nisar, arguing he was never consulted when Shah was first appointed last year, as is constitutionally required.
The president’s letters suggest that the government has decided to create a paper trail in the appointment of the NAB chief. The 18th Amendment to the constitution mandates that head of NAB be appointed by the prime minster in consultation with the parliamentary opposition leader. This provision was added to the constitution to help prevent the NAB chief position being given to a partisan who would ‘selectively’ pursue corruption cases against the opposition.
The president made an attempt to allay one of Nisar’s objections on Deedar that he was once affiliated with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), an association that makes an individual ineligible for such positions. Zardari argued Deedar remained affiliated with the PPP long before he was appointed a judge in the Sindh High Court.
“He was appointed as Judge Sindh High Court keeping in view his vast professional experience and unquestionable integrity,” the President’s letter said. “A person of integrity and sound knowledge normally severs his past connections with the political party with which he had affiliation and decides the matter purely on merits.”
Zardari also reminded Nisar that the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, former premier Nawaz Sharif, had once expressed confidence in the integrity of Deedar.
While the letter only sought Nisar’s opinion, the president’s arguments suggest that he wants Nisar to withdraw his objections to Deedar Hussain’s appointment.
Upper Sindh paralysed by PPP protest
A complete shutter-down strike was observed on Friday across northern Sindh against the Supreme Court verdict invalidating the appointment of chairman of NAB.
The strike affected nearly all districts in Sindh, including Sukkur, Ghotki, Mirpur, Jacobabad and Shikarpur. In Karachi, commercial activity came to a grinding halt as public transport remained thin and all government and private schools and petrol pumps remained closed.
The strike was said to be partial and armed men roaming around on motorcycles gunned down at least six people, wounded several others and torched over a dozen vehicles in various localities. The most affected areas in the metropolis included Lyari, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Pehalwan Goth, Keamari, Pak Colony, Steel Town and Malir.
The University of Karachi also postponed its examinations due to be held on Friday.
Two buses were set on fire in the SITE area, a minibus in Mehmoodabad, a car near Dhobi Ghat, another at Burns Road, two cars at a showroom in the New Town area and a trawler at the Godown Chowrangi in Korangi. Killings were reported in Khadda Market, Mauripur Road, Korangi, Lyari, Orangi, and near the KMC Workshop in Eidgah.
Rangers and police were seen patrolling the streets. There was no report of anyone being arrested for being involved in firing or arson incidents.
Meanwhile, PPP lawmakers in Sindh termed the Supreme Court verdict invalidating NAB chief’s appointment a Punjabi judgement, declaring it to be illegal and unconstitutional. The onslaught against the judiciary was led by Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza and Sharjeel Inam Memon. Legislators marched about a hundred yards to the main gate of the Sindh High Court amid strict security, shouting slogans against the superior judiciary.
Courts in Karachi, including the Malir District Bar, worked normally and lawyers condemned the PPP.
In the Sindh Assembly, a resolution was unanimously passed against the petition filed by Chaurdary Nisar Ali Khan, which struck down the appointment of the NAB chief.
During the assembly session, Sharjeel Inam Memon read the resolution: “Sindh Assembly express dismay over the petition of PML-N MNA Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan about Syed Deedar Hussain Shah and resolve that his partial and discriminatory attitude is damaging for the inter-provincial harmony and…pays tribute to Syed Deedar Hussain Shah.”
Terming the apex court’s verdict biased, Memon said that people living in Sindh “are confused and depressed” following a number of verdicts by the Supreme Court “against people from this province”.
Citing several cases which were pending before the superior judiciary, including the Mehran Bank scandal, Hudaibia Paper Mill and murder cases of people who lost their lives in the fight to restore the sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court, Memon said: “Our (honourable) judges have time only to proceed cases against the government.”
Later, PPP-MPAs unanimously passed the resolution. Members of the PML-F and the PML-Q abstained. Lawmakers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) continued to boycott the assembly proceedings.
Suo moto action against
Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza urged the Supreme Court to take suo moto action against the Jang group which, according to him, had tried to create “disharmony” among people of Sindh and Balochistan by publishing a “concocted story”.
“The paper (The News) has tried to create an impression that judges from Balochistan have given the order,” he said, adding that the judges, including Justice Javeed Iqbal and Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, were Punjabi settlers who were at one time living in the Balochistan. According to him, they had now moved back to Punjab.
The Muttahidda Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Coordination Committee denounced incidents of armed violence and accused the government of backing “terrorists who had deprived people of cash and other valuables at gunpoint” during the strike.
An MQM statement said that these “armed outlaws” had been repulsed by the people, who had also rejected “lawlessness and mayhem under official patronage”.
The coordination committee urged the people of the province to rise up to the occasion, adding that divine justice was “slow to come, but all evildoers will surely be held accountable for their evil deeds”.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2011.
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