In a calculated expression of mistrust, a defiant Pakistan Peoples Party leadership on Thursday questioned the judiciary’s authority after the Supreme Court asked a former senior government investigator, Tariq Khosa, to lead the probe into ‘Memogate’. The comments perhaps herald another bitter confrontation between the state institutions.
At a hurriedly called news conference hours after the court order on several identical petitions, including one filed by former premier Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Dr Babar Awan lashed out at Nawaz, though he deflected questions on whether the government recognises the commission set up by the court.
Awan, who was flanked by other PPP leaders, said that by seeking a court investigation of the memo scandal Sharif wanted President Asif Ali Zardari to be declared a traitor. “Zardari is not a person. He is the PPP and the Bhuttoism … Nawaz Sharif should say what game he is playing by calling the elected president a traitor,” he said.
Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah argued that Nawaz had chosen to “use institutions” to malign the government because he could not tackle the PPP on the political turf. “He is desperate and confused,” Shah said of PML-N leader.
Awan said that by ordering the judicial probe the Supreme Court had denied a bipartisan and bicameral parliamentary committee on national security its right to hold an inquiry into the scandal, which has been seen as the latest rift between the country’s political and military leadership.
The former law minister also questioned the integrity of Khosa, the former bureaucrat assigned by the court to start collecting evidence in the scandal, claiming that his family was close to Nawaz Sharif and his party.
The PPP leader informed journalists that the committee led by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani was set to begin investigations into the bitter scandal from Friday – and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani would brief it personally.
“Let me say it without any fear of contradiction there is only one law in Pakistan to constitute a commission and only one authority can do that and that is the government … and we will not surrender both the supremacy of the parliament and the authority of the executive. Let there be no doubt about it,” Awan remarked, indirectly rejecting the court’s move.
Awan deflected several questions on whether the government recognises the commission set up by the Supreme Court. He also did not say if government figures and would appear before it if summoned. “We don’t expect justice but will fight it out within the ambit of the system,” he added when asked about the government intentions after the court’s directive.
Besides questioning the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court to constitute a commission, Awan also lashed out at what he called a hasty decision, made without hearing the views of the government and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani. “Without serving any notice on the federation and without listening to us, this decision is not one that meets all the requirements of justice,” he added.
The PPP legal wizard said Haqqani had returned to Pakistan to prove his innocence in the scandal and would be here to face all allegations. Referring to a court ban on Haqqani leaving the country, Awan argued that freedom of movement was a fundamental right under the constitution and no institution could deny this to any citizen.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011.