For now, there will be no ‘restructuring’.
The government told the Supreme Court on Friday that it had no intention of sacking Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Ahmed Shuja Pasha for their ‘unconstitutional and illegal’ replies in the Memogate hearing.
Attorney General (AG) Maulvi Anwarul Haq, representing the government, was still asked by the head of the three-judge bench, Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to ask the federal government for confirmation of its intentions and report back to the court in two weeks.
The chief justice was acting in response to a petition from lawyer Fazal Karim Butt, who had asked the court to ensure the government did not remove the army and ISI chiefs.
Butt based his petition on media reports that the government was planning to sack Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha over their stance in the Memogate scandal. In Butt’s view, the court would have to ‘restrain’ the government to protect the military heads.
The AG dismissed the claims as media speculation. “The government has no intention to sack them,” he told the court. Striking a conciliatory note, the CJ responded by asking Haq to allow “the dust to settle” and nevertheless ask the government for their position.
The AG objected to the maintainability of the petition, stating it was filed on the basis of misleading newspaper reports written in the conjecturing tone that has accompanied much of the Memogate scandal. For the CJ, this was exactly the point: “That’s why we have issued you a notice. The country needs improvement in the state of affairs,” the chief justice observed.
Justice Chaudhry also said that the court will not record the AG’s statement in private. Highlighting the public importance of the matter, the CJ said he wanted to address the issue in an open court instead of a behind-closed-doors hearing in his chambers.
Sharing a light moment with Haq, the chief justice said the AG would be able to do the needful over what is a comparatively lean weekend. Reciprocating the tone, the AG reminded the CJ of the busy week to come.
To allow the AG to scrutinise the contents of the petition, seek instructions from the government and then file a detailed reply, Justice Chaudhry put off the hearing for two weeks. He also said the situation should “move towards an improvement.”
In his petition, Butt outlines his fears that the government will remove the army and ISI chiefs in order to further a political agenda and in violation of its professional responsibilities. He adds that the president and prime minister are apprehensive about receiving a verdict against them in the Memogate hearing.
The petition also claims the government has harassed and blackmailed the top army brass through their public statements, which have repeatedly surfaced in the print and electronic media. The petitioner attached newspaper reports to his petition.
One excerpt reads: “Memogate has become another NRO for the regime, which is smartly following the same old strategy: target the one who does not toe your line and get him cornered.”
Butt also believes the government is not empowered to sack the military chiefs. Since the president and the prime minister granted extensions to Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha, they are therefore barred under law from curtailing their tenures, he argues.
(Read: That fractured relationship)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2012.
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