Qaiser Zulfiqar May 14, 2010

ISLAMABAD: After months of skirting around each other, the two sides will come face-to-face on May 25. In a much-anticipated move, the Supreme Court on Friday summoned law minister Babar Awan in the case regarding the non-implementation of the court’s verdict on the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

The five-member bench hearing the case is led by Justice Nasirul Mulk and includes Justices Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, Jawwad S Khawaja, Rehmat Hussain Jafferi and Tariq Pervez. On Thursday, the court had again summoned former law secretary Aqil Mirza to explain the government’s statement stating that the Swiss cases against President Asif Zardari were a closed chapter and therefore there was no need to communicate with Swiss authorities. However, Mirza’s resignation was accepted by the government the very same day.

On Friday then, Attorney- General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the court that since Mirza’s resignation had been formally accepted, he would not be able to appear before the court. “He is sick and cannot continue,” said Haq. But the bench wouldn’t let him off so easy. “If he was so sick, why did you put additional burden on him?” asked Fayyaz. “Despite his illness, he managed to write a report, which was submitted by you?” Other members of the bench also had their own observations.

As Mulk noted, it was on the directive of the court that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) wrote to the law ministry and the foreign office, asking them to reopen the Swiss cases. As such, he reasoned, the government was given clear directions regarding the implementation of the verdict. At this, Jafferi added that the directions were issued by no less than a 14-member bench of the apex court. “In reply to those letters, the law ministry said the chapter has been closed… The attorney general says one thing, the deputy attorney general says another, the NAB chairman makes a different statement – rather than hearing you anymore, it’s better to summon the law minister and ask him what action the government has taken so far in implementing the NRO judgement,” Mulk told the AG.

Meanwhile, NAB prosecutor general Irfan Qadir repeatedly asked to assist the court on the issue but the bench did not grant him leave. “You are not representing the government; you represent NAB. The attorney-general is present in court and he is supposed to satisfy the court on behalf of the government,” Mulk said. NAB chairman Naveed Ahsan and interior secretary Qamaruz Zaman were also present at the hearing. Meanwhile, in the hearing regarding Ahmad Riaz Sheikh, additional attorney-general K K Agha was told that the bench had studied the report of the fact-finding committee regarding developments in the case and would hear his arguments at the next hearing.


Meanwhile, federal Law Minister Dr Babar Awan says he will appear before the Supreme Court. On Friday, he said he was not afraid of courts and would appear on May 25 on behalf of the federal government. He was addressing members of the bar associations of Kasur, Chunian and Pattoki at Changa Manga Forest Park. “The PPP believes in democratic values, rule of law and supremacy of the constitution and it is not afraid of any challenge,” asserted Awan.

“We welcome challenges and we know very well how to deal with them because we want strong institutions.” Here, PPP politician Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali also chimed in, insisting that the PPP had contributed a great deal to the struggle for the restoration of the judiciary. “The struggle of lawyers and people was only to restore judges, not to create another power centre in the country,” he said. Ali said Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani have issued directives for the implementation of the courts’ orders. He added that the president has immunity under Article 248 of the constitution and the United Nations convention also protected heads of states from court proceedings.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 15th, 2010.