The Supreme Court’s order to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf came as a surprise for political forces in general – but was a particularly bitter blow for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
As soon as the decision was announced, PPP leaders converged at the Prime Minister House to brainstorm, a discussion that continued late into the night on Tuesday.
Among the options discussed by the government’s legal team were going for pre-arrest bail in the Supreme Court, contesting the orders on grounds of interpretation and employing delaying tactics by using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), as well as filing a review with an application to suspend orders till there is a decision on the review.
Thus far, the PPP leadership, along with its legal experts, remains tight-lipped about which option it will choose.
Law Minister Farooq H Naek claimed that the apex court’s order made no mention of Premier Ashraf’s arrest. He added that investigation did not lie in the domain of the court, and was the exclusive domain of the NAB chief.
Naek said that the NAB chairman is authorised to submit charge sheets and hold investigations under the National Accountability Ordinance.
In its order, the court stated that NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari will be responsible if any accused in the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case, including Premier Ashraf, leave the country. The court also asked NAB to submit a report after arresting all the accused.
A member of the cabinet said that Naek will be “playing a major role” in whatever legal remedy they opt for. He added that the government will most likely go for Naek’s interpretation, and if need be, choose the bail option.
According to prominent legal expert SM Zafar, however, if the prime minister moves the court for bail, he’ll have to surrender himself for arrest first.
Privately, some members of the PPP pointed fingers at their own leaders, accusing them of gross mismanagement by ‘letting the situation get out of hand’.
Others directed their criticism at the Supreme Court order, calling it part of a ‘bigger conspiracy’ while vowing that the party will not bow down.
“I don’t see elections in the coming days. The schedule will be announced but no elections will take place in the near future,” a senior PPP leader said.
Most party members did not openly criticise the court decision – but an official statement issued by the PPP human rights cell, headed by Dr Nafisa Shah, spoke out against the decision and linked it to Dr Tahirul Qadri’s march.
Several PPP leaders also anticipated more damning decisions from the courts in the coming days – particularly in the president’s dual office case, currently being heard by the Lahore High Court (LHC).
One of them said that it is likely that the president may opt to relinquish the office of co-chairman in the coming days and hand over party affairs to his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
President Zardari has called a meeting of his allies in Karachi, while PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif will be holding a meeting with the leadership of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Jamaat-e-Islami, and other parties, including Baloch nationalists in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2013.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ