The fumbling spirit of forgiveness


Rana Tanveer April 14, 2010

LAHORE: Legal experts have unanimously announced that the Punjab government has no authority to stop the implementation of presidential clemency awarded to prisoners convicted in different crimes.

President Asif Ali Zardari announced clemency for prisoners convicted of petty crimes on April 9, 2010. In reaction, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nisar Ali Khan, stated that the Punjab government had reservations regarding the president’s announcement and would not implement it.

The Express Tribune approached legal experts affiliated with the Pakistan peoples party (PPP) and PML-N and most party officials agreed that the president was given powers under Article 45 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to award clemency to detained prisoners. Former PPP federal law minister SM Masood said that according to the constitution the president had the power to grant general clemency.

He said that although there were examples of individual cases when the provincial governments had showed their reservations, this had never happened regarding general clemency. Masood termed refusal to comply with the orders as an ‘unethical act’ by the Punjab government when the three remaining provinces had already implemented the orders.

He said there were incidents when sessions judges or judges of the superior courts issued release orders for prisoners of minor offences during their visits to local prisons, adding that the president enjoyed the same powers. Legal expert Hamid Khan, also a leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, said that the president had the constitutional right to award clemency.

However, he did not comment on the stance of the Punjab government. Advocate Rana Asadullah said that the Punjab government was only using ‘delay tactics’, adding that presidential orders could not be side stepped. Advocate Khurram Latif Khan Khosa said that the Punjab government had no legal authority to stop the implementation of the presidential orders, adding that the step by the provincial government was tantamount to rebellion and those responsible should be tried under Article 6 of the constitution.

Advocate AK Dogar, PML-N counsel said, “Although I have not studied this matter in detail, I think the president does not have the power to grant a general pardon. He is only entitled to pardon individuals.”

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