ISLAMABAD: If the prime minister didn’t hear the order the first time, he certainly will have heard it this time.
The Supreme Court on Thursday reiterated an order to the prime minister to write to Switzerland for reopening corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, demanding a compliance report by March 21.
The prime minister’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, had earlier argued before the court that his client was never directed to write a letter. However, Thursday’s order was understood to be the first time the Supreme Court has asked the prime minister directly. In the past, demands were conveyed through the law ministry.
Hearing a contempt case against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a seven-member bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, directed the attorney general to communicate the order to the premier.
The court has been asking the government to write to the Swiss to re-open the cases since late 2009 when it revoked a political amnesty freezing legal proceedings against key politicians. On February 13 this year, Premier Gilani was charged with contempt over the government’s refusal to write to the Swiss authorities.
“On the next date of hearing (March 21) the prime minister shall file the report regarding the implementation of the NRO judgment,” the court observed. The court noted that, regardless of the advice from his secretaries, “Prime Minister, being the head of the government and the chief executive of the country, has to make the final decision...”
The bench directed Aitzaz to file a written statement by Prime Minister Gilani on March 19; but if he wants to appear himself then he could do so on March 21.
“I think the prime minister would like to appear before the court himself, but I have not discussed this issue with him,” Aitzaz said.
Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa questioned if the prime minister will appear as his own witness and said that if he chooses to give a statement, he will open himself for cross-examination. He further said: “This case is not about doing something; it is about something that has not been done.”
Aitzaz said that the prosecution has not brought forward any rebuttal or any evidence. Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq said that, after the prime minister’s statement, he would see whether more evidence should be filed.
The court observed that the pendency of the contempt of court case against the prime minister would not be affected, while proceedings for the NRO implementation would also continue.
The bench, which is the same for the NRO case, inquired from the attorney general what measures taken for the implementation of the NRO verdict. The AGP responded that, after weighing many options, the government has chalked out more than one plan for compliance.
Earlier, the AGP cross-examined Cabinet and Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi. He asked Sethi about the precise functions and duties regarding the summaries that come from various departments. She replied that important summaries, like those sent by the law ministry on May 21 and September, 2010, about writing a letter to Swiss authorities, are placed before the prime minister.
The AGP also asked if she made personal inquires about whether the summary was sent back to the law ministry with the prime minister’s directions for compliance. She replied that she had not.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.
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