ISLAMABAD: The role of the country’s premier intelligence agency came under the spotlight at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as Asma Jehangir, counsel for former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani, defended her client in the Memogate case.
In an assertion that blurred the boundaries between the alleged perpetrators and the victims in the case, Jehangir termed Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha’s visit to London as a venture against the government.
“Many of us inside this courtroom are guilty of treason if the ISI’s statement is to be believed,” Jehangir said to a nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
“The likes of Benazir Bhutto and Wali Khan are also traitors by its standards,” she said.
Jehangir also challenged the court order on probe, and how far the court could go in supervising an investigation.
‘Nailing’ the issue
She argued that the unsigned memo had been blown way out of proportion following the publishing of an article by Mansoor Ijaz, the Pakistani-origin American businessman and the self-proclaimed whistleblower in the Memogate scandal. Ijaz had also claimed that the government had prior knowledge of the Abbottabad raid.
The article on Abbottabad incident came after Ijaz met with DG ISI, who should be asked to explain his position, she added.
“You have hit the nail on its head, Asma. This is exactly what we want to do,” Justice Jawad S Khwaja replied.
She said the court could not do that because it involved political questions, which were excluded from the court’s jurisdiction.
“Yes, we can do it under the constitution. We have already done a lot and we would continue to do more,” the judge replied. Jehangir said the petitions filed in the memo case did not raise any violation of fundamental rights and contained numerous flaws, including intangible claims.
Justice Khwaja observed that the petitioner was probably in a hurry to file it to the court.
“Everybody seemed in a hurry on the subject. The Chief of Army Staff also claimed [in his meeting with the prime minister] that time is of the essence and the prime minister should take a stand on the memo issue,” Jehangir said.
Earlier, the chief justice asked Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to state why Interior Secretary, in his reply to the Supreme Court, had dubbed the memo ‘a piece of paper’ when the government made Haqqani resign and later ordered a probe.
He has the right to express himself, especially in the backdrop of the media coverage of the memo that has raised insinuations, Haq replied.
He said the court’s power under Article 184(3), under which the petitions are being heard, were not unfettered because such a case could only be entertained only after determining that it contained a question pertaining to ‘the enforcement of fundamental rights’.
Haq said he does not believe that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case but that it should exercise restraint because of the proceedings of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security on memogate scandal.
The chief justice said that the working of the committee could not obstruct the court from exercising its constitutional powers to entertain the case.
“Why should we shut our eyes when we know what happened after Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated, the country broke into two parts and Benazir Bhutto was murdered,” the chief justice observed.
Regarding the non-submission of President Zaradri’s reply in the case, the chief justice said he had been asked to, but he ‘chose not to,’ ostensibly due to ‘some reasons’.
The attorney general also submitted the prime minister’s reply on Dr Babar Awan’s press conference which the court found to be ‘derogatory.’
The premier reiterated his earlier stance that the press conference had given historical perspective and was not meant to ridicule the judiciary in any manner.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2011.