ISLAMABAD: In a huddle at the Presidency on Tuesday night, the government had resolved to buy more time for Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf – and followed through in that effort on Wednesday.
In an effort that can be described, at best, as a push to buy time, Attorney-General Irfan Qadir filed a review petition against the Supreme Court order passed back on July 12 in which Prime Minister Ashraf was directed to write a letter to Swiss authorities regarding the reopening of cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The order in question was passed by a five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case. Through its review petition, the federal government has asked the court to set aside the order, which, it maintains, is not implementable.
The move may not hold for very long, given that the court has reiterated on a number of occasions, including once again on Wednesday during the proceedings of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) judgment implementation case that the matter was now of the implementation of the 2009 NRO verdict, not the verdict itself, given that the NRO judgment had attained finality.
According to the review petition, the prime minister was not bound to write the letter and it was actually the job of the federal government, that is the federal cabinet, or the “concerned authority,” that is NAB. It added the premier had not received any directions in this regard.
The petition further said that the Supreme Court’s June 27 and July 12 orders in this case were unlawful, and, if the letter had been written, it would have violated Article 248(2) of Constitution. “The Prime Minister of Pakistan, by virtue of his oath, is bound to preserve and protect the Constitution and he is under a constitutional obligation to disregard any order of the Court which negates the Constitution or law,” the government argued in the petition.
The issue of the size of the bench was also raised. The petition maintained that the main judgment in the NRO case was recorded by a 17-member bench and it could not be implemented by a seven-member bench.
Interestingly, it also argued that former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was convicted for contempt – which was one of the six options put forward by the court in terms of possible action against the then premier – which means the new prime minister cannot be tried in the same way. “…option no 2 has exhausted and could not apply as it had already been exercised.”
Another unusual argument made in the review petition questioned that, if the court itself could not write the letter to Swiss authorities, why was it expecting the prime minister to do so.
The Supreme Court, while hearing the NRO implementation case, on July 12 had ordered Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to submit a compliance report by July 25. Later, on July 25, when the compliance report was not submitted, the Supreme Court set a deadline of August 8 for Prime Minister Ashraf to implement its order of writing the letter to Swiss authorities.
At hearing on Wednesday, the apex court finally summoned the Premier Ashraf to appear before it on August 27 – where it could slap contempt charges on him.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.