Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan will render no favours, not even to the country’s chief executive.
The lawyer is charging Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani a token legal fee, Rs100, but has spelt out tough conditions for pleading the premier’s case in the Supreme Court.
Foremost amongst the conditions is keeping at bay persons indulged in ‘uncouth’ criticism of the incumbent judiciary.
“Unlike in the past, when I represented you while you were in jail and charged you no fee, you will pay me a fee by a cheque in the name of ‘Aitzaz Ahsan and Associates’ in the sum of Rs100/-,” reads the invoice sent by Aitzaz’s law firm to the prime minister, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune.
Conditions and payoff
In an invoice issued on January 17, a day after the apex court issued a contempt notice to Gilani for not complying with court orders on NRO implementation, Aitzaz first spelled out his conditions.
“Persons indulging in unpalatable and uncouth criticism of superior courts be restrained,” was the first condition.
“You and I will travel to the courts by ourselves, and in all humility, without a procession of any kind,” the barrister added.
The conditions appear to have been fulfilled for now – the premier drove himself to the Supreme Court, with his counsel, on January 19. The firebrand former counsel, Babar Awan, was at bay.
The payoff has worked for the prime minister as well. Aitzaz was able to secure around two weeks from the court, till February 2nd, for the next hearing. The court also spared the prime minister from appearing in person for the next hearing.
During his recent media talks, Aitzaz refrained from disclosing the fee he was charging the prime minister.
“It is a matter between me and the prime minister. But you will be surprised if I tell you the amount of tax I pay annually,” he said to a questioner.
A leading figure in the lawyers’ movement for restoration of judiciary, sacked twice in 2007 by the then-military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, Aitzaz had pleaded the case of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry when he was sacked the first time.
Reputed to be an expensive lawyer otherwise, Aitzaz had charged Justice Chaudhry a similar token amount.
In normal cases, however, he charges in millions.
“The fee we charge varies. It is different for corporate and criminal cases,” an associate of Aitzaz who works for his law chamber said when asked to share some details of the fee charged by them.
Aitzaz recently admitted taking Rs15 million as fee from Haris Steel Mills to defend its case in the Lahore High Court.
Besides appearing for the chief justice, Aitzaz has been the counsel for former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in the past.
In his invoice-cum-draft agreement with Gilani, Aitzaz also spelt out his strategy before taking up the case.
“You have always known my position on the basis of which I have continuously advised the government that since the office of the president (whosoever be the incumbent) imparts full immunity to the incumbent temporarily for the duration of the office, at home and abroad, the writing of the letter would not be of any consequence.”
“Even though the letter to Switzerland would not have resulted in a prosecution, you have a defence if you thought it appropriate not to be seen to have set a precedent of pushing the president of our country into a public ordeal before a foreign forum,” he added.
According to Aitzaz, this would amount to throwing a man into foreign fire in the belief that he cannot be harmed by domestic fire, says the document. Prime Minister Gilani took the same stance in the statement he made before the court on January 19.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2012.
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