ISLAMABAD: Investigations by a panel of the supreme body of the land, the parliament, will not be enough.
The Supreme Court on Friday formed a commission, comprising High Court judges, to probe into the scandal, which has left the country’s executive and military at loggerheads. The commission is to submit its findings within a month.
Delivering a unanimous verdict on the maintainability of petitions, the apex court on Friday said that the petitioners succeeded in establishing a case of public importance with regard to enforcement of fundamental rights, prima facie, under Article 9, 14 and 19-A of the Constitution.
The court cast aside arguments that it could not interfere in matters involving deep political questions and that a violation of a fundamental right was a must to invoke its jurisdiction.
The commission will probe into an unsigned memo that purportedly sought from the US a strong message to the army against an attempt to overthrow the civilian apparatus.
One of the petitioners, Nawaz Sharif, chief of the largest opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, had asked the court to unmask the individuals who tried to ‘destroy the armed forces’ through the ‘treasonous memo’. Listed as respondents in the petitions, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Director General Ahmed Shuja Pasha had also asked the court to hold a probe into the memo scandal.
Former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, meanwhile, challenged the court’s jurisdiction to conduct such an exercise through his counsel, Asma Jehangir.
Specifics of the order
Rejecting Jehangir’s argument, the nine-judge bench directed Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to secure the most important piece of evidence: confirmation on the authenticity of the messages allegedly exchanged between Haqqani and Pakistani-origin American businessman Mansoor Ijaz on their Blackberry phones.
The court directed the foreign secretary and the High Commission of Pakistan in Canada to assist the attorney general and the commission in getting forensic evidence of the conversation from Blackberry’s parent company, Research In Motion.
The order stated that the commission shall ascertain the origin, authenticity and purpose of the memo delivered to former chairman of the US joints chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman and Sindh High Court Chief Justice Mushir Alam have been appointed as the members of the commission, while Raja Jawad Abbas Hasan was named secretary of the commission.
The commission is free to avail services of lawyers and experts of forensic science and cyber crimes for completion of the probe in a month, the order stated.
It added that all federal secretaries, the chiefs of Federal Investigation Agency, inspectors general of police of all provinces and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and high commissioner to the UK shall also assist the commission.
Will the government comply?
Whether the government will comply in terms of logistical and political support, however, remains in question, especially in the backdrop of its refusal to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The bench also reiterated its December 1 directions to Haqqani for not leaving the country without permission.
The court also kept ruling party’s Vice President Babar Awan on the hook.
“Office is directed to put a separate note in the Chambers of Chief Justice of Pakistan along with the transcription of the press conference dated December 1, 2011, of Mr Babar Awan along with replies of the Prime Minister for an appropriate order,” the bench stated.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2011.