BACK TO SQUARE ONE: Breakthrough claimed, but ball again in court of Asif, Nawaz
ISLAMABAD, May 7: Representatives of the PPP and PML-N in the legal committee tasked with preparing a roadmap for reinstatement of deposed judges agreed here on Wednesday on the text of a draft resolution for their leaders to approve and decide how to implement it.
As the last marathon session ended close to midnight, there were clear signs of differences among senior lawyers on modalities to reinstate the judges as members of the committee dispersed in a rather pessimistic mood.
“Today the coalition party members and their lawyers have finished their task,” Law Minister Farooq H. Naek told journalists after the meeting at the Punjab House. The two constitutional experts in the committee held divergent views on the implementation of the draft resolution produced by other members.
“That is why the final decision on the text of the resolution and the mode of implementing it has been left to the party heads,” the law minister said.
“So it is back to the coalition heads as they are stuck with the same sticky point,” commented an observer.
Differing opinion between two constitutional experts – Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan and former minister Abdul Hafeez Pirzada – on how to implement the resolution to reinstate the judges led the committee to refer the issue to party heads along with the text of the resolution, the law minister said.
It was decided during the Dubai talks, the minister recalled, that the matter would be sent back to the top leadership of the two coalition partners to take a decision.
When he was asked whether the resolution would be tabled before the National Assembly on May 12, as had been promised, the minister said both PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif would look into the matter.
It was also up to the party heads to decide the timing of the meeting. They also have the mandate to consult other coalition partners – the ANP and the JUI-F – if need be, the minister added.
Mr Zardari is expected to leave for London within the next 48 hours to meet Mr Sharif who is already there.
An insider privy to the developments told Dawn that the bone of contention was the presence of three draft resolutions being piloted by different players. An agreement on anyone of them, even with minor adjustments or amendments, was an uphill task as no one was ready to budge an inch, he said.
Although the major coalition partners had agreed to retain the sitting judges who had taken oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO), both Mr Ahsan and Mr Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim have opposed increasing the strength of the apex court to 27 from 17 by amending the Supreme Court Judges’ Act, 1997.
It was the retention of the sitting judges that led Mr Ebrahim to excuse himself from attending the committee’s meeting further.
The two legal experts told the committee that lawyers would not accept sitting judges as constitutional judges.
They believe that these judges should be sent back to the pre-emergency position while a scrutiny committee should be formed to consider their appointment on a case-to-case basis under the principles laid down in the 1996 Al-jihad Trust case.
Mr Ahsan is already on record having said that the sitting judges should be retained as ad hoc judges.
Except for Mr Ahsan, no member of the legal committee had any objection to tabling of the resolution at a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament. But members belonging to the PML-N believed that after adopting the resolution, the judges should be reinstated through an executive order, the insider said.
Other members of the committee are in favour of the adoption of a constitutional package after the passage of the resolution.
The package, according to some constitutional experts, is aimed at giving indemnity to all actions, including removal of judges, taken by President Pervez Musharraf on Nov 3.