Government refusal to write Swiss letter: Legal brains in a fix over likely SC response
By: Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD: The government stuck to prevarication on Tuesday on the NRO judgment implementation case. With the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf not agreeing to write to Swiss courts to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, the government has again sent the ball back into the court of SC judges.
While some consider it to be a good politico-legal move by President Asif Ali Zardari and his legal advisers to create a difficult situation for the judiciary, many others believe that the never-ending tussle between the judiciary and the government has the potential of taking an unforeseen ugly turn and, therefore, needed to be dealt with carefully.
Legal observers say it will be difficult for the Supreme Court to send another prime minister home. But at the same time, it has its own reputation at stake, if it lets Prime Minister Ashraf continue after committing the same offence for which former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified.
“Let them hit the ball the way they want because it is once again in their (judges) court,” said a senior government official close to the PM’s legal team.
When asked if the government was deliberately pushing the apex court towards issuing a harsh judgment, the official said the court had already sent a prime minister home and what else they could do.
“If they want to give the same punishment to Raja Pervez Ashraf the PPP is more than willing to accept it. Let them do it again,” said a PPP office-bearer.
Answering another question, he said after the disqualification of Mr Gilani the party was left with no choice but to stick to its stance on the issue of the letter. “Having sacrificed one prime minister the ruling party could not afford to change its earlier position and, come what may, no letter will be written to the Swiss government,” he said.
Talking to Dawn, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira refused to accept a perception that the government was heading for a head-on collision with the judiciary.
“In head-on collisions opposing parties try to damage each other but the PPP, despite having reservations, has always accepted court judgments and will keep on doing so in future,” said Mr Kaira. When asked if the PPP leadership was deliberately creating a situation which could compel the Supreme Court to pass a harsh judgment, particularly on the NRO implementation case, the information minister said the party was only presenting its point of view in the court.
“It is a wrong impression that the PPP willingly wants to sacrifice Raja Pervez Ashraf or is in search of a martyrdom card for next general elections,” he said.
The minister said a cabinet meeting to be held on Wednesday would be briefed by Law Minister Farooq H. Naik on the issue of the Swiss letter.
In the event of Raja Ashraf’s disqualification, a future course of action would be decided after consultations with parties sitting in the coalition, Mr Kaira said, adding that the PPP would once again accept the court judgment with open arms.
A Supreme Court lawyer, who didn’t want to be named, said that with the government taking an extreme position on the NRO judgment implementation case and the Contempt of Court Act, 2012, being heard by the SC, sub judice Raja Pervez Ashraf might get some time.
“From the overall mood of judges which I have gathered over the past couple of days, it appears that the Supreme Court will avoid passing judgment in haste and let the political leadership of the country work towards a smooth transition towards next general elections,” said the lawyer, who deals in constitutional matters.
Talking to Dawn, Barrister Zafarullah Khan said it was unfortunate that two state organs were on a collision course which would lead the country nowhere. But at the same time, he said, developed countries throughout the world had witnessed such crises in their constitutional history.