ISLAMABAD: Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have decided to make history by clipping all the powers of the president through a constitutional amendment despite all internal and external pressures.
The coming constitutional package will change the whole balance of power in Pakistan and President Pervez Musharraf will have no option but to resign because he will become a Chaudhry Fazal Elahi who was just a ceremonial president.
According to the highly-placed sources, the real target in the coming constitutional package will not be the office of the chief justice but the president. Initially, Nawaz Sharif was of the view that President Musharraf must be tried in a court of law under treason charges but Asif Zardari disagreed. He suggested that instead of targeting one individual, they must target the powers of the president, which were used to weaken democracy in Pakistan. Zardari told Nawaz Sharif that the Army high command would react negatively to any humiliation of their former chief.
Asif Zardari has also assured Nawaz Sharif that he is determined to implement the Murree Declaration of March 9 in which both the leaders promised to restore the deposed judges within 30 days of making the new government. Nawaz Sharif was of the view that this 30-day period would end on April 30. Zardari agreed with Nawaz Sharif in their last meeting but they also discussed some legal problems. A 6-member joint PPP-PML-N committee is trying to iron out the differences.
Law Minister Farooq Naek has informed the committee that a simple resolution passed by the National Assembly will have no legal force to restore the deposed judges. He argued that the resolution will show only the sentiments of the people and then the prime minister can issue an executive order to restore the judges but that order must be issued according to the Constitution and law. Naek said that according to the Supreme Court Judges Act 1997, the number of SC judges was 17.
There are 17 judges working already in the SC and the number of restored judges will be 10 (including Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and minus Justice Javed Iqbal) and in that case, the total number of judges will reach 27. He informed the committee that in order to increase the SC strength from 17 to 27, the parliament needed to pass a new act. This act needs endorsement by president in 30 days.
The PML-N members of the committee are of the view that according to Article 182 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court could have more than 17 ad hoc judges. They said that there were 19 judges in the SC in July 2007. They suggested that all the deposed judges could be restored immediately on an ad-hoc basis and then a new act could be passed to make them permanent judges. This act will need only simple majority.
It was also learnt that PPP suggested 4-year tenure for the chief justice while the PML-N favoured consulting the Supreme Court Bar Association in this regard. One deposed judge revealed to this correspondent that Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would not accept the four-year term and he might not go back to the Supreme Court in that case. He said on condition of anonymity that Justice Iftikhar would feel that parliament had clipped the powers of Musharraf and transferred these powers to Asif Ali Zardari.
Courtesy: The News, 26/4/2008