The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief had asked the chief justice to take notice — and the chief justice did.
Except the notice taken was against Altaf Hussain himself, who on Friday was sent a contempt of court notice for his statements against the judiciary regarding fresh delimitations in Karachi, and ordered to appear before the court on January 7. The MQM chief has been in self-imposed exile for two decades.
Altaf had made no secret of his displeasure at an apex court order regarding fresh delimitations in Karachi, particularly in a telephonic speech on December 2 – but he may have overstepped the line. Altaf had even asked the chief justice and the president to take action against one particular judge for his remarks regarding the political situation in Karachi, a city that the MQM has controlled almost exclusively for close to three decades.
A three-member apex court bench issued notices to Altaf on Friday for using contemptuous language against the judiciary – and told the party leader to appear in person on January 7.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, which was presented the scripted contents of an address by the MQM chief on December 2 by the court registrar, termed the remarks tantamount to interference and obstruction of the process of the court, and threatening judges.
The bench, which also comprises Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, directed that notices be served to Altaf through the foreign ministry secretary and the MQM deputy convener, Farooq Sattar.
During his telephonic speech on December 2, Altaf questioned the apex court’s recent judgment on the redrawing of constituencies in Karachi before the general elections.
According to the script provided to the court, the MQM chief made allegations that certain Supreme Court judges were bent on ‘wiping out’ his party, adding that such judges will face ‘divine wrath’.
Altaf also referred to other remarks made by judges during several hearings on the Karachi law and order situation. He said that constitutional action should be taken against judges who made such comments.
Without naming one particular judge, Altaf termed his remarks unconstitutional and tantamount to contempt of the mandate given by the people of Karachi. He also said the remarks expressed ‘an open enmity’ towards the city’s population.
The chief justice in his Friday order said that the MQM leader’s remarks were “tantamount to interference with and obstruction of the process of the court by advancing threats to the honourable judges of Supreme Court and it also tended to bring the judges into hatred, ridicule and contempt.”
Besides issuing contempt orders against Altaf, the court also directed the Sindh chief secretary to explain why killings in Karachi have increased and what measures have been taken for the protection of life and property of the citizens. The court ordered that this matter be dealt with separately.
In October last year, the apex court directed the election authorities to conduct delimitation of constituencies in the city. On November 28, 2012, the court repeated this order and also asked the ECP to verify voters’ lists in Karachi.
With the exception of the MQM, all parties hailed the judgment. The last time delimitations were carried out in Sindh was in 2002, on the basis of the 1998 census, by then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.
The court has said that the current delimitations initiated in 2002 are based on ethnic grounds and should be abolished. The court had also observed that delimitation should not allow for any particular party to have a monopoly.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2012.