Judges reinstatement needs parliament approval: PM
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gave an entirely new dimension to the ongoing judicial saga when he said in the National Assembly on Monday that no one should undermine the government on the issue of judges’ appointment and disclosed that the executive order signed by him in March last year to reinstate judges needed parliament’s approval.
Analysts saw in the address a veiled threat from the prime minister that if the opposition tried to cash in on the row between the government and the judiciary, the whole process would be derailed.
The prime minister was responding to points raised by opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-N during a hard-hitting but rhetorical speech in which he once again targeted President Asif Zardari and held him responsible for all the ills the country was facing.
The PML-N later got a setback when the PML-Q refused to take part in the walkout staged by it soon after the prime minister’s speech.
As PML-N legislators started walking out of the assembly, Amir Muqam of the PML-Q announced that his party had earlier decided to boycott the proceedings with the PML-N, but now they were satisfied with the prime minister’s response.
Gilani said it was wrong to say that the judges had been restored because of the long march launched by lawyers and some opposition parties. “The decision to restore judges had already been taken at 12 midnight on March 15 last year, but it took him six hours to make the announcement.”
During the intervening period, Gilani said, he kept consulting legal experts. “They advised me that I cannot issue an executive order in the light of the apex court’s judgment in the Iqbal Tikka Khan case,” he said.
But, the prime minister recalled, he issued the reinstatement order nevertheless. The order needs approval by parliament, he added.
Gilani denied that there was rift between the government and the judiciary. “There are no differences, but difference of opinion. There should be no confusion; we enjoy cordial relations with the judiciary.”
The prime minister said the government would abide by the Supreme Court verdict and its interpretation of Constitution’s articles relating to judges’ appointment.
“We are human being. Anybody can do wrong. You could have done wrong and we might also. To every wrong, there is a remedy. Let the court decide. If the court declares us wrong we will bow our heads,” he added. Mr Gilani said he would have no objection if parliament gave powers of judges’ appointment to the chief justice. “We have no favourites (in the judiciary). We respect all the judges equally, be it Khawaja Mohammad Sharif or Saqib Nisar,” the prime minister said referring to the two judges whose elevation and appointment set off the latest crisis.
“I myself appointed Justice Khawaja Sharif as chief justice of the Lahore High Court. How can I be against him,” he added.
Defending his party co-chairman and President Asif Zardari, Mr Gilani said the incumbent president should not be equated with a former military dictator like Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
“I request the opposition leader not to compare an elected president with the referendum president,” Gilani said, adding that they had not acquired power through backdoor like Gen (retd) Musharraf. “This comparison is an insult to our struggle we made for restoration of democracy in the country.”
NISAR STANDS FIRM: Earlier speaking on a point of order, opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar asked the government to withdraw notifications about judges’ appointment without waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision.
A three-judge special bench of the apex court had suspended the notifications two hours after these were issued by the Presidency on Saturday evening.
Chaudhry Nisar criticised the government for issuing the notifications a day before the weekly holiday and termed it an attempt to stage “coup d’etat” against the judiciary.
Reacting to the burning of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s effigies by PPP activists during rallies, he said his party had asked its workers to show restraint. However, he warned, they could also burn effigies and reply in the same coin if this practice continued. “If someone wants to have a bout, we are ready for it.” Chaudhry Nisar wondered when courts were the final arbiters, why did the government create this fuss? He said PPP leaders defending the government’s notifications on TV channels were committing contempt of court.
The PML-N leader termed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer a “remnant of Musharraf” who was working against the government of his own province.
He said there had been a trust deficit between the PPP and the PML-N and this could be harmful for democracy and the country.
At one point, the opposition leader accused the speaker of trying to defend her ruling party when she interrupted during his speech only to ask whether the matter was sub judice.