Supreme Court gives Prime Minister Sept 18 deadline to implement NRO verdict
By: Sohail Khan
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday gave three weeks to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to implement its order in the NRO case and directed him to personally reappear before the bench on September 18 with a positive commitment that the court’s order would be obeyed.
A five-member special bench of the apex court comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed heard the show-cause notice of the contempt of court issued to Premier Ashraf for not implementing the NRO verdict.
“We are only interested in implementing para 178 of the NRO judgment that relates to the withdrawal of a letter written to the Swiss government by former attorney general Malik Muahammad Qayyum,” Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa told Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who appeared before the court in the traditional Sherwani.
Compared to former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Premier Ashraf appeared submissive and instead of relying on legal points relating to the immunity of President Asif Ali Zardari, simply sought an extra four to six weeks time to deliberate upon the issue, assuring the court that he would do his best to deal it given that it had sparked controversy locally and received worldwide attention too.
“Muj par vishwash karain (trust in me),” the prime minister told the court in the Hindi language, assuring it that he would be successful in achieving the goal and would maintain the dignity of the court under all circumstances.
The prime minister submitted that when he received his counterparts of various countries, and met diplomats, he was always questioned about the implementation of the court’s order. “I am right to say that I am a responsible citizen and cannot dare to defy the orders of the highest court but l need some four to six weeks to deliberate upon the matter with my cabinet and coalition partners as this is a very serious issue and I am determined to obey the orders of the court”, the PM said.
However, Justice Khosa reminded the PM that the respect of the court lay not in appearing before it but in implementing its verdicts. During the proceedings, which lasted for 55 minutes, the Prime Minister contended that being the chief executive of the country he had great pressures upon him, including the prevailing situation of law and order, terrorism, energy crisis; and hence needed time to understand the issue. He pleaded that he was just a political worker but not a jurist and therefore wanted to hire a legal counsel to aid him.
“Give me an opportunity to hire a counsel who could guide me in the right direction because I have no intention and can’t even dare to linger on the issue. I wish to resolve the issue in a manner which upholds the dignity of this court as well as addresses the concerns of the federal government”, PM Raja contended.
The prime minister further prayed for time to submit his reply in the show-cause notice issued to him for contempt of court but repeatedly assured the court that he would do his best to uphold the dignity of the court and would not defy the court’s order.
Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa appreciated his appearance and said he was a respectable prime minister of a respectable nation and as not appearing as an accused. “You should obey the orders of the court and we are only interested in implementing para 178 of NRO Judgment” Justice Khosa told the PM, adding that the court was not fond of summoning parliamentarians and holding their trials.
“We are ready to address your concerns but first you will have to give positive commitments that you will implement the court’s order and later we will facilitate you as well”, Justice Khosa further told the PM.
Justice Khosa further observed that the issue was not as complex as it was made out to be, saying the PM could resolve the issue in a day if he were serious.
The PM replied that he too was of the same view, which is why he wanted more time to think over the issue seriously and make serious efforts to resolve it. “With collective wisdom we will be able to find a solution.”
“The matter has come to your door now and you should resolve it instead of going into more deliberations,” Justice Gulazar Ahmed told the prime minister.
“Today you should give a positive commitment and rest assured, we have no confrontation with anyone but only want the implementation of the court’s order in letter and spirit, after which we will address your concerns as well,” Justice Khosa told the PM.
He asked the PM to authorise the attorney general or law minister to implement the verdict. “We want the implementation of the court’s order,” Justice Khosa told PM, adding that he should give practical shape to his obedience in the same way as he had treated the court reverentially. “The court has passed an order which should have been implemented and now it does not need any further deliberations,” Justice Khosa said.
The PM pleaded: “I deserve leniency in the case; the former prime minister served 4 years but I have served as prime minister just for 60 days.” But Justice Khosa told him sharply: “If you don’t make a positive commitment right now, more complications will arise.”
The court first adjourned the case until Sept 12, but the PM requested more time since he would be in China until Sept 14. He also requested withdrawal of the show cause notice issued to him. “If I visit China with a show cause notice, the court can imagine what message it will send to the international community,” the PM contended.
The court accepted his request for more time and directed him to appear before it on September 18 and make a positive commitment in the instant matter. The court then adjourned the hearing. Leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government accompanied the prime minister as he presented himself before the apex court.
Justice Athar Saeed complained that certain members of the PM’s cabinet, governors, senators and members of parliament were using contemptuous language against the judiciary which should be stopped.
Voicing his concern over the remarks of his brother judge, Justice Khosa observed that it seemed as if everyone was suddenly an expert in the law while the judges did not know anything.
The PM told the bench that there were 89 TV channels airing transmission in the country and they were making a mockery of the president and prime minister’s offices. It was his view that there should be no disrespect for the judiciary.