|PM authorises law minister to write Swiss letter (‘I will, My Lord’)|
19 September 2012
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf till September 25 to ensure that former attorney general Malik Qayyum’s 2008 letter to the Swiss authorities was withdrawn after the prime minister told the court that he had authorised the law minister to communicate with the Swiss and ensure that the letter was recalled.
“In compliance with the court’s earlier order, I have analysed the issue from different angles and finally directed the law minister to communicate with the Swiss authorities for the withdrawal of Malik Qayyum’s letter,” Raja Pevez Ashraf told a five-member special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa.
The bench resumed hearing into a show case notice of contempt of court against the prime minister for non-compliance of the court’s National Reconciliation Ordinance order. Other members of the bench were Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Athar Saeed.
During the proceedings, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa asked the premier whether he had directed the law minister to take care of the withdrawal of the Qayyum letter in writing or if he had just issued a verbal order thus far.
The court directed the premier to submit before it the authorisation letter as well as a draft of the letter to be addressed to Swiss authorities.
The premier thanked the court for giving him three weeks time and submitted that in the best interest of the country as well as to uphold the dignity of the court, he had authorised Law Minister Farooq H Naek to withdraw the letter written by former Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum to the Swiss authorities.
The court exempted Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf from appearing before the court at the next date of hearing and appreciated his efforts for the implementation of its order pertaining to para 178 of the judgment in the infamous NRO case, promulgated by a former military dictator in 2007, paving the way for a return to civilian rule.
The Supreme Court had in December 2009 declared the NRO as void ab inito and ordered the reopening of the cases closed under the NRO.
Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who appeared before the court for the second time in traditional Shalwar Kameez and Sherwani, submitted that the issue had caused much uncertainty both among the nation and the government and had greatly impacted state affairs; hence he had tried his level best to resolve the issue.
“But at the same time, I would expect from the court to take into consideration the reservations and concerns of the government that relate to the office of the president and hope that it will issue such an order which would be in the best interest of the nation and the country”, the premier contended, adding that such an approach would settle the issue amicably.
The premier who arrived at the court along with his cabinet ministers as well as coalition partners submitted that Russian President Vladimir Putin was arriving in Pakistan to attend a conference regarding regional security while President Asif Ali Zardari would leave to address the UN General Assembly. He requested that the court be mindful of these engagements.
“It is my sacred duty to uphold the dignity of the court and majesty of law,” Raja Ashraf submitted, adding that being the chief executive of the country and leader of the house in the National Assembly, it was his utmost desire to resolve the issue amicably.
He said that as per the court order, he had fulfilled his duty. The premier also requested the court to exempt him from personal appearance before the court, in view of his engagements as chief executive of the country, which the court accepted.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa appreciated the PM’s efforts to abide by the court’s order but said that four steps were still to be taken to complete the process: One: the authorisation of the withdrawal letter; two, drafting the letter and presenting it before the court to determine if it were drafted in pursuance of the court’s order; three, determine how the letter would be communicated, whether through physical means or by means of communication to Geneva in Switzerland; and four: informing the court that the concerned Swiss authorities has received the missive from the Pakistani side.
The court stressed that the PM complete the four steps as early as he could. The prime minister, however, sought time till the end of the month, saying that the Russian president was arriving in Pakistan on October 2.
“You can do this before October 2,” Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa told Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. When the PM insisted on a delay, Justice Asif Seed Khosa told him that since he had authorised the law minister to do the needful, there should be no more delays. He however, asked the premier to complete the first and second steps of producing authorization, drafting the letter and submitting it before the court in two-three days.
Law Minister Farooq H Naek also sought time till the end of the current month, adding that the issue should not be resolved in haste and could create complications.
Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa at one point dispelled the impression of tension among institutions. He observed that it was wrong to create the impression that any institution was against any other. He said the court was only interested in implementing its order on Para 178 of the NRO judgment and would not budge an inch from the verdict.
Farooq H Naek however, repeatedly sought time till September 28, saying that the letter would be drafted in an effective manner, which would be acceptable to the court. “You know the case from A to Z; why are you seeking more time in the instant matter?” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa asked the law minister.
“It’s a question of consideration,” Naek replied, saying that the court had given them three weeks time so they could easily be given more.
Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till September 25, directing the prime minister to submit before the court a draft of the letter as well as the notification of the PM authorising the law minister to communicate with the Swiss authorities.
The following is the order passed by the Supreme Court in the NRO case:
“The Prime Minister of Pakistan has again appeared before the Court today and at the outset he has informed that he has already issued the necessary direction to the Federal Minister for Law and Justice to implement the relevant direction contained in paragraph No. 178 of the afore-referred judgment.
“During the course of his appearance he has, within the view of the Court, once again directed the Federal Minister for Law and Justice regarding implementation of this Court’s above said direction in its letter and spirit.
“The Prime Minister of Pakistan has gone on to submit that there are certain concerns of the Federation of Pakistan which may be attended to by this court while finally disposing of the matter and that till such final disposition of the matter his personal appearance may be dispensed with.
“We appreciate the efforts made by the prime minister towards resolution of this long-standing issue and have apprised him that for final disposition of the matter certain steps need to be taken which include a written authorization by the prime minister regarding such implementation, drafting of the relevant communication, dispatch of such communication to and receipt of the same by the Swiss and other authorities and final confirmation of such receipt of the relevant communication by the concerned authorities abroad”, the court ruled
The Prime Minister has directed the Federal Minister for Law and Justice present in the court to cooperate with the court regarding taking of all such steps.
“We understand that taking of all such steps may require some time for which a time-frame needs to be determined. In this connection the Prime Minister and the Federal Minister for Law and Justice have undertaken that on 25.09.2012 the necessary authorization shall be produced before this court and a draft communication shall also be made available before this Court for this Court to examine as to whether the same meets the requirements of paragraph No. 178 of the judgment handed down by this Court in the case of Dr. Mubashir Hassan or not”, the court order further said.
After those stages are over a time-frame shall be fixed by the Court for taking of the remaining steps.
Adjourned to 25.09.2012. The appearance of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Prime Minister of Pakistan/ Chief Executive of the Federation in Court in person in the present proceedings is exempted till further orders.”
AFP adds: Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the prime minister had made “serious efforts” to resolve the standoff but the court wanted to see the letter before it was sent to the Swiss to check if it fulfilled the order dating back to December 2009. “It is necessary we should be fully satisfied that the requirement of the order is fully met,” the judge said.
Online adds: The bench observed that the next step after the withdrawal of Malik Qayyum’s letter will be to write a letter about reopening of cases closed under the defunct NRO.
NNI adds: The bench ordered that the letter should be handed over to the Swiss attorney general and the court should be informed accordingly. Various leaders including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of Q-League Haji Adeel of ANP, Farooq Sattar of MQM and Syed Naveed Qamar and Firdous Ashiq Awan, Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa arrived at the Supreme Court to accompany the PM.
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