The Supreme Court is finding it hard to steer clear of the political dimension in the case of the memogate affair, which has already intensified the rivalry between the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Both parties have already made conflicting claims on the role of the apex court in tit-for-tat press conferences.
And if the political statements were not enough, a new technicality has arisen pertaining to the federation’s presence while the apex court passed its orders on Thursday. Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq entered the fray on Friday, echoing former Law Minister Babar Awan’s opinion that the federation was denied a hearing at the memogate case while the apex court passed a spate of orders.
The attorney general said that he was not holding the federal government’s brief, ie representing the government, when the Supreme Court sought his opinion on the formation of the commission. “I was only assisting the court as an officer of the court,” he added in a rare statement from his office.
“We have been against the involvement of the Supreme Court in political affairs,” Supreme Court Bar Associatioin (SCBA) president Yasin Azad told The Express Tribune.
“Parliament should step forward and resolve issues, which fall within its domain and rid the court of unnecessary burden,” he said. Azad felt that the Supreme Court should have allowed the federation to submit its point of view before setting up a commission to probe the memo affair.
The SCBA president said: “Unless the court issues a formal notice to the federation, the attorney general’s opinion could not be attributed to the federal government.”
Former law minister Khalid Anwar felt that the question whether the Supreme Court heard the federation or not “is a complicated one because of the gap between the law governing the attorney general’s role and the past practice”.
Before Sharifuddin Pirzada became the attorney general for a martial law regime, the attorney general always represented the federation whenever he appeared before the Supreme Court. However, Pirzada started assigning federation cases to other lawyers and appeared before the court as an officer of the court to assist it, Anwar added.
While the Supreme Court may deliver the final word on the controversy surrounding the federation’s point of view on the memogate commission, the Constitution clearly lays down the role of the attorney general.
Clause (3) of Article 100 states: “It shall be the duty of the Attorney-General to give advice to the Federal Government upon such legal matters, and to perform such other duties of a legal character as may be referred or assigned to him by the Federal Government, and in the performance of his duties he shall have the right of audience in all courts and tribunals in Pakistan.”
Technicalities in the courtrooms aside, the case has already created its fair share of political brinksmanship outside the court.
In response to former Law Minister Babar Awan’s fiery press conference held on Thursday, in which he hit out at the apex court as well as premier and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, the Supreme Court asked the PPP to avoid raising “baseless allegations” against it.
“We hope that baseless allegations will be avoided in future and the dignity and respect of the apex court will be maintained,” the Supreme Court said in the statement issued here on Friday.
Awan had claimed that the Supreme Court gave protocol to Sharif and allowed his armed guards to accompany him to the court premises.
“No one was given any protocol or any special favour as far as entry into the court premises or the courtroom No 1 (CJP’s courtroom) is concerned,” the statement said.
Furthermore, Sharif, too, reacted to Awan’s press conference, stating that the failure of Parliament compelled him to go to the court.
It also remains to be seen what the fate of the SC-mandated commission will be.
The proceedings may take more twists and turns in the days ahead. Mansoor Ijaz, the central player in the memogate controversy, has said that he was ready to face the Supreme Court, according to the South Asian News Agency (SANA) on Friday.
A written statement issued by Ijaz quoted him as saying that the apex court’s decision demonstrated that democracy was indeed alive and well in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has issued a 10-page detailed verdict of its orders passed in Thursday’s proceedings of the memogate scandal.
ADDITIONAL INPUT BY NEWS DESK
To view the detailed verdict issued by the Supreme Court visit tribune.com.pk/story/301260/supreme-court-visit-verdict
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2011.