SC orders three federal secretaries to file comments -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

SC orders three federal secretaries to file comments

Sohail Khan

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the federal secretaries of the ministries of information, interior and law to file para-wise comments till June 20 over the progress made thus far in the investigation of the murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad.

The court also ruled that a powerful commission would be constituted to probe the matter after receiving comments from the respondents. A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim, was hearing a constitutional petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).

The PFUJ had filed late Thursday night a petition in the apex court, seeking the formation of a high-powered judicial commission under an SC judge to probe the murder. It had made the federal secretaries of the ministries of information, law and interior respondents.

The court, in its preliminary hearing, ruled that a powerful commission would be constituted after receiving para-wise comments from the respondents. The court also directed the IGPs of Punjab and Islamabad to appear in person on June 20 along with complete details pertaining to the progress made so far in the investigation of the murder of journalist.

Advocates Asma Jehangir and Munir A Malik appeared before the court on behalf of the PFUJ and argued that the provision of consultation with the chief justice was built into the Commission of Inquiry Act 1956. They submitted that the commission constituted by the government for probing the murder of Saleem Shahzad was against the independence of the judiciary. They further submitted that Saleem Shahzad’s phone records had been erased and this could only be done by a powerful agency.

PFUJ President Pervez Shauqat, RIUJ President Aslam Butt and other journalists, including Hamid Mir, were also present in the courtroom. During the course of hearing, the chief justice enquired whether the case of abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzad had been filed. Asma replied that the case had been filed in Islamabad but the Punjab Police were conducting the investigation.

“As Saleem Shahzad was abducted from Islamabad, the case has been filed in Islamabad,” Asma said. She submitted that Shahzad was mysteriously abducted on May 29, 2011, and his dead body was recovered from a canal in Mandi Bahauddin on May 30. She said the body was buried on the same day. Subsequently, on May 31, 2011, Shahzad’s dead body, bearing signs of brutal torture, was identified and the post-mortem report verified the abuse.

After hearing the preliminary arguments of the counsels for the petitioner, the court issued notices to the federal secretaries, directing them to submit their replies by June 20 and adjourned the hearing.

Asma Jehangir, Munir A Malik and Pervez Shaukat spoke to reporters outside the court premises after the hearing and expressed confidence over the judiciary and hoped that the petitioner would get justice.

To a question, Asma said that there were suspicions the ISI had erased the phone records of the deceased Shahzad since it was the only agency that could access or manipulate the phone records. To another question, she said under the law, the court could summon the ISI chief, adding that he was not more powerful than the prime minister and president.

In its petition, filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, the PFUJ prayed that the apex court pass an order for constituting a high-powered commission to enquire into the facts of the petition and pass appropriate orders to protect the fundamental rights of the petitioner organisation and journalists, so that they could perform their professional duties without fear.

Source: The News

Date:6/18/2011