ISLAMABAD: Calling it unconstitutional, the legal fraternity has rejected the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) 'new strategy' to discuss judges’ conduct in the parliament and vowed to resist the move.
“Though parliament is supreme, judges’ conduct cannot be discussed in parliament under Article 68 of the Constitution. Both the institutions should show restraint and avoid giving statements against each other,” said the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Kamran Murtaza on Monday.
Talking to The Express Tribune, PBC former vice chairman Ahsan Bhoon also rejected the move and said the lawyers’ fraternity will strongly resist any move to curtail the power of the judiciary.
One section of lawyers believes that this whole exercise is aimed at pressurising the judiciary to get a judgment in its favour in the Election Act case in which the apex court is to decide the term of a lawmaker’s disqualification.
The SC is expected to conclude its hearing in this matter today [Tuesday] after hearing the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP). They said even a constitutional amendment can be shot down if it violates the independence of the judiciary in view of settled principle by a majority judgment in 21st constitutional amendment case.
Advocate Azhar Saddique warned that if the parliamentarians targeted judges then he would move contempt petition against the National Assembly speaker and others. "I will also approach the SC for their disqualification as they will violate their oath," he adds.
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Saddique also referred to remark of the chief justice that the ridiculing the judiciary is a violation of Article 5 of the Constitution. Justice Ijazul Ahsan has said that attacking the courts is tantamount to subverting the constitution, he added.
A number of ruling party lawyers are also upset over the leadership decision to target judges. “Political strategy affects the legal strategy in the courts. It’s not easy to face the court on behalf of those who are campaigning against the judges,” said a lawyer of the ruling party.
He said there are some elements in the PML-N, who are flaring up the situation, adding that role of a ‘media house’ is also dubious as it is fueling tensions between the ruling party and the judiciary.
It is also learnt that when the PML-N leadership started targeting the judges, senior lawyers were unwilling to appear on their behalf. Makhdoom Ali Khan had already recused himself from appearing on behalf of the PML-N to defend the Election Act 2017, which paved the way for deposed premier Nawaz Sharif to become party head.
His first condition was that Sharif would not give any statement against the judiciary during the pendency of case but the party leadership refused to accept it by saying that the present strategy toward judiciary is successful on the political side.
Senior lawyers are also expressing concern over a statement of the Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Shah, who showed a willingness to support the government on the new legislation.
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“At least Shah sahib should go through the arguments of the PPP lawyer Latif Khosa in Election Act case. It was Mr Khosa, who insisted that the bench take strict against Nawaz Sharif for his anti-judiciary campaign,” said the PTI lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain.
Another section of the lawyers is also urging the judiciary to show restraint and avoid passing remarks, which may give an opportunity to the Sharif family to react. They believe that the constitution of benches is very significant in political matters.
After the issuance of the first Panama Papers verdict on April 20, the PML-N had started targeting the Supreme Court bench and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing corruption allegations against the Sharif family. This criticism intensified after the July 28 verdict disqualifying former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public offices.
Later, Sharif in his rallies across Punjab severely criticised judges for disqualifying him due to non-declaration of assets in his nomination papers. With the passage of time, his criticism of the judiciary has become increasingly severe.
However, despite this criticism, Sharif has managed to get some relief from the SC which rejected the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeal for the restoration of the Rs1.2 billion Hudabiya Paper Mills reference against the Sharifs.
Another PML-N leader believes that Panamagate verdict was issued against Sharif family due to poor legal strategy. A member of Sharif’s legal team said his client had the best opportunity to resolve the Panama Papers issue in the parliament.
The team member said there was no need to file so many documents at the start of Panama proceedings. Due to the submission of fake documents, the case became weaker, he added.
He also admitted that the Sharif family had unnecessarily targeted the three judges who chose not to disqualify him and formed a JIT to investigate the matter further.
“There was no need to make the Whatsapp call an issue at that time. They did not acknowledge that three judges did not endorse the two senior members – Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmad – of the larger bench’s judgment to disqualify Nawaz on his false statement,” he further stated.
He said the Sharifs aggressive attitude against the judiciary had done the party more harm. The SC gives more time to the PML-N leaders to file replies in contempt cases.
Meanwhile, the SC has given time both PML-N Leaders Danial Aziz and Talal Chaudhry to submit their reply in the contempt matters for targeting judges. The SC three-judge bench, headed by Justice Azmat Sheikh, began hearing of the case against Aziz. They issued a show cause notice and questioned why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against Aziz for the statements against the judiciary.
The bench noted his three anti-judiciary statements in last year. Advocate Ali Raza, counsel for Daniyal Aziz, appeared on his behalf. The bench directed him to submit a reply by Friday, February 23.
Another bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan also gave another week to Talal Chaudhry to file a reply in a contempt case. During the hearing, Kamran Murtaza counsel for the accused appeared and requested for ten-days to file a reply. However, the bench asked him to submit reply till Monday.