Aitzaz says no as SC gives another chance to PM
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday told Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for PM Yusuf Raza Gilani, that the contempt of court case against the premier could be withdrawn if he wrote a letter to the Swiss authorities for the reopening of the graft cases against President Aif Ali Zardari.
While bringing the United Nations to his client’s rescue on Thursday, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for Prime Minster Yusuf Raza Gilani, also light heartedly asked the court to promise that he would not be asked yet again by the bench to write the letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Meanwhile, the court reminded Aitzaz that while immunity might shield the president from prosecution, it did not bar him from writing a letter to the Swiss authorities. A seven-member special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, heard a contempt of court case against the PM. The proceedings ended with an interesting interaction between the bench and Aitzaz Ahsan.
When Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry asked the PM’s counsel to promise to conclude his arguments by Friday (today), Aitzaz replied that he should also be promised that he will not be asked to write the letter to the Swiss authorities.
At one point, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa told the counsel that being a public representative, Aitzaz had a responsibility to 180 million people, at which Aitzaz replied that the bench too held the burden of the whole Constitution on its shoulders.
At the outset of the hearing, the court observed that if it were supposed that the president enjoyed immunity, it (immunity) might shield him from prosecution, but not from writing a letter to the Swiss authorities.
Continuing his arguments on the issue of immunity, Aitzaz contended that both the United Nations’ Resolution and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had acknowledged the immunity enjoyed by heads of states. He also presented before the court a memorandum by the UN secretariat, which provides immunity to diplomats, foreign ministers, missions and all heads of states. Referring to various cases, Aitzaz said the ICJ had also halted proceedings against the heads of states on the grounds that they enjoyed immunity. He said the heads of the states of the Republic of Congo and Djibouti were exempted from cases under the same law. He said in the Djibouti case, the head of the state was not even summoned as a witness. He said due to the law of immunity, even late Moamar Qaddafi had escaped proceedings against him in France.
At one point Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry asked Aitzaz that instead of prolonging his arguments, he should prefer to shorten his formulations by putting the river inside a pot. Aitzaz retorted that the bench was expecting something beyond his capabilities.
Going ahead with his arguments, Aitzaz said in the General Pinoche case, the court had held that the head of the state had immunity like that of any other state.Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa remarked that in different areas, heads of the state had been first treated as diplomats. Justice Nasirul Mulk noted that it may be for this reason that courts considered the heads of the state immune.
Aitzaz said even when in exile or incognito, heads of states enjoy immunity.Aitzaz urged the court to see only the intentions and the knowledge of the respondent as per the evidence of the record and whether there was adequate material to infer justification. He said that the charge was framed to determine liability, and the court had to see only the intention and the knowledge of the respondent as per evidence on the record and whether there was adequate material to infer justification of his conduct and whether it was a reckless.
He also read out the Supreme Court’s orders and the summaries written to the prime minister by the Law Ministry about implementation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) verdict, particularly to the extent of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Aitzaz said according to the rules of business, the Law Ministry and law secretary were responsible for implementing the court’s order in the NRO case. The court then observed that its orders should have to be implemented by every concerned one.
At one point when Aitzaz was referring to the six options given by the bench in an earlier order, Justice Khosa said that the court did not want to go to any extremes and had repeatedly asked for the implementation of its order with love and affection; however, he said they were compelled to be stern.
Aitzaz said that contempt must not be used as a weapon but as a last option.Justice Khosa termed the second option as the hydrogen bomb while Aitzaz termed it a cluster bomb.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till today (Friday).