ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday maintained that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani should have written a letter to the Swiss authorities as per the court’s orders, and later invoked the defence of the presidential immunity.
During the hearing of Gilani’s contempt case in the apex court, Justice Nasirul Mulk, heading a seven-member bench, remarked that the prime minister should have followed the court’s orders and then relied on the immunity clause.
Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, however, maintained that the court’s order could not be followed till Asif Ali Zardari is the president.
The lawyer submitted before the court that he has a reasonable basis to believe that the compliance of paragraph 178 of the court’s judgment was not presently possible and the court should discharge the contempt notice against the prime minister.
He also presented a section of the Article 248 of the Constitution as a basis for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities, with the suggestion to transfer the NRO case to Islamabad High Court for implementation.
“The Article 248 (1) partly provides immunity to the prime minister,” Ahsan argued.
The court observed that it could withdraw the contempt notice if the court’s NRO verdict which became the reason for the contempt case is implemented.
Ahsan contended that there was a reasonable basis due to which the prime minister did not implement the court order and said that the court order is non-implementable.
The prime minister has not committed any contempt of court by not ordering National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reopen cases of Swiss accounts kept by Benazir Bhutto and President Asif Ali Zardari who enjoys immunity in the country, Ahsan reiterated.
It is also an international norm and we cannot throw our president into the foreign fire, he added.
“Gilani was advised by his law secretary to take this step. The prime minister himself is a layman and he can’t read the detailed verdict issued by the court in NRO implementation case,” Ahsan said.
Justice Mulk remarked that earlier the prime minister had said in the court that it was his own decision and no one had advised him and had cited the Article 248 of the Constitution as a reason for not writing the letter. Aitzaz replied that the premier appeared before court to show respect but he was not a practicing lawyer. “I am his spokesperson,” he said.
During the hearing, Ahsan also said that the court could question the presidential immunity but he will not argue on it in this case; however, Justice Mulk said that the contempt notice is associated with the immunity “so there would be no need for carrying on with the contempt case if the government proves immunity for the president”.
Aitzaz replied that it is not mandatory to satisfy the court regarding the Article 248 during the preliminary hearing as the president was not under discussion currently.
“If you can convince us, then we will withdraw our notice; otherwise, we will frame charges against the prime minister,” the court observed, adding that Articles 189 and 190 of the Constitution compelled all to obey the court orders.
The court also inquired about the law secretary, who was supposed to provide important documents to the court. Attorney General Maulvi Anwar ul Haq told the court that he will inform the court about secretary’s whereabouts later. However, he endorsed Ahsan’s stance that the required documents have already been submitted before the bench.
The court adjourned the hearing till February 2 (tomorrow) and ordered Ahsan to conclude his arguments by 11am tomorrow.
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The minister also quoted Aitzaz Ahsan and said that the lawyer emphasised during the hearing that he was upholding the Constitution of the country.
"Aitzaz Ahsan repeatedly said in the court that he was defending the Constitution of the country, and not specifically Prime Minister Gilani," he said.
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