NRO implementation: Crucial day in SC for immunity-less premier

Party leadership huddles at Presidency to discuss ways to buy more time.

Irfan Ghauri August 07, 2012


Running short of time and options, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said it is adamant to “resist” what it terms “new centres of legislative power” – a thinly veiled reference to the striking down of a contentious law last week by the Supreme Court.

The law would have provided legal cover to the premier from contempt proceedings, which he is faced with when the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case resumes today (Wednesday). On the eve of the crucial hearing, the top leadership of the PPP huddled at the Presidency.

A statement that came from the meeting late Tuesday night highlighted the defiant mood in the ruling party camp, despite the striking down of the premier’s immunity by the apex court. “[The meeting] expressed determination to resist … the emergence of new centres of legislative power other than the elected Parliament,” the spokesperson to the president said. “Law-making is the sacred responsibility of legislature which will not be abandoned at any cost,” the statement added.

With Yousaf Raza Gilani already shown the door, and incumbent Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in hot water for not writing the letter to Swiss authorities, the government’s legal team will attempt to buy some more time today from a five-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Sources said it is likely that Attorney General Irfan Qadir would attempt to gain time by claiming that the government was considering the options given by the court at the last hearing, two weeks ago. In what may be construed as a hint of leniency, the court, at the last hearing, had asked the government to come up with an amicable solution, and offered its assistance. However, that gesture came at a time a new law was in place that protected the premier from contempt proceedings. Last week, the apex court nullified the law.

The government had announced on Sunday that it would file an appeal against the scrapping of the contempt of court law, but it is yet to furnish its plea before the court.

Sources said the appeal would be filed later this week, with the main contention that court order has revived the law passed by a dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, and nullified the will of the people as the new law was passed by ‘genuinely’ elected representatives.

PPP insiders say the party is firm in its stance that it will not write the letter against its president.

The party’s legal wizard, Law Minister Senator Farooq H Naek, who was also the architect of the scrapped contempt law, briefed the huddle on legal issues pertaining to Wednesday’s court proceedings. Sources said the PPP is also considering challenging the Supreme Court order, claiming that it is not implementable.

The government’s team has already raised an objection over the head of the five-judge bench, Justice Khosa, and is expected to press on it during today’s proceedings. Attorney General Qadir had objected that Justice Khosa had discussed the case with him, prior to his appointment as attorney general, and shared his views with him over the matter.

‘Elections discussed’

The president called upon the party leadership to gear up preparations for future elections, which, the president emphasised, would be held on time in consultation with coalition partners.

The president advised the party leadership to ensure that every lawmaker and party ticket-holder thoroughly checked the voter lists and report any discrepancy to the Election Commission, the statement said.

Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar also briefed the meeting on the energy situation in the country and informed the participants about the progress on implementing zero duty on the import of solar panels.

(Read: SC’s verdict on contempt law)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.