Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry appointed heads of the judicial commissions, on Monday, formed to investigate the May 2nd Abbottabad raid and journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder.
Justice Saqib Nisar will reportedly head the Saleem Shahzad murder commission while Justice Javed Iqbal will head the Abbottabad raid commission.
The Supreme Court has informed the Law Ministry about the appointment of the commission heads, while the PFUJ had also sought extension in the scope of inquiry commission’s mandate.
Earlier the Supreme Court on Monday had directed the federal government to form a commission to probe the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in Islamabad.
The court had disposed of the petition and ordered the government to form a commission.
The chief justice had earlier said he would nominate a judge to head the commission by this evening. He had announced that the law ministry has written a letter to the court for nominating a sitting judge of the SC to head the commission to probe the murder.
The journalists are seeking an extension in the commission’s mandate, saying that the pattern of harassment of journalists should also be investigated as 70 of them have been killed in the recent past.
Updated from print edition (below)
In double climbdown, govt turns to CJ
The government was forced into a double climbdown on Sunday when it fired off a missive as well as a ministerial petition to the apex court chief justice, seeking sitting judicial nominations for separate commissions probing last month’s US raid in Abbottabad and slain journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder.
“I have received a letter from the government, requesting the chief justice to appoint a judge as head of the independent commission,” Supreme Court registrar Dr Faqir Hussain told The Express Tribune on Sunday. The nominated judge will head the independent commission into the Abbottabad incident.
Separately, the information ministry has also requested the chief justice through the ministry of law and justice to nominate a judge to head the commission which will probe the killing of investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad.
“We have written to the ministry of law to request on its behalf to the chief justice of Pakistan for nomination of a judge to head the commission,” said Information Secretary Taimur Azmat. The government will also submit a copy of the letter to the apex court bench hearing Shahzad’s murder case, he added.
The twin decisions are being seen as further evidence of a government prone to procrastination and ignoring procedures set down instead of saving itself from embarrassment.
The letter was drafted by Law Secretary Masood Chishti in consultation with Law and Justice Minister Maula Baksh Chandio. “The chief justice may appoint a judge for heading the commission to investigate the (May 2) Abbottabad incident,” the two-page letter said.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani nominated Justice Javed Iqbal as head of the commission without consulting Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Other members were: Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmad, Abbas Khan, a former inspector-general of police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and former ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.
Adopted after a marathon session on May 14, the resolution said: “The joint session of parliament calls upon the government to appoint an independent commission on the Abbottabad operation, fix responsibility and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur. The composition and modalities of the commission will be settled after consultations between the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition.”
Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jehangir questioned the manner in which the commission was appointed, terming it contrary to the established principles of law.
Justice Javed Iqbal, the second senior-most judge of the apex court, had conditionally accepted his appointment, and reportedly asked for the consent of the chief justice.
The commission set up to investigate killing of Shahzad was embroiled in a similar controversy when Justice Mian Saqib Nisar refused to head the investigations.
Nisar was of the view that he could not agree to the job because the prime minister had not consulted the Supreme Court chief justice in this regard in violation of established judicial norms.
Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan tried to justify the government’s move, saying consulting the chief justice was not required for setting up the commission.
She cited the example of Abbottabad probe commission in this regard, where a sitting Supreme Court judge, Justice Javed Iqbal, was appointed head of the commission without prior permission from the chief justice.
However, it has been learnt that the government was considering writing a letter to the chief justice, urging him to appoint a judge to head the commission for investigating Saleem Shahzad’s murder.
The fate of the Abbottabad probe commission still hangs in the balance because one of its nominated members Justice (retd) Fakharuddin G Ibarahim had declined the nomination.
Moreover, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had complained that he was not consulted as it was envisaged by the parliamentary resolution.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2011.