May 042008

Addressing a press conference in Lahore on May 02, former prime minister and PMLN chief Mian Nawaz Sharif declared that the judges deposed by President Pervez Musharraf through his extra-constitutional Proclamation of Emergency and the Provisional Constitutional Order on November 3 last year will ‘Insha Allah’ be restored through a parliamentary resolution on Monday May 12, 2008. According to him, a session of the National Assembly will be convened for that date in which a resolution for restoration of the judges will be approved. Soon after this resolution, the federal government will issue an executive order restoring the deposed judges. Mian Nawaz Sharif further said that the draft of the resolution will be finalized by a committee comprising of Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani and Khawaja Haris. Federal Law Minister Farooq H Naek will be convenor of the committee while members of the Dubai negotiating team Rehman Malik, Khawaja Asif and Chudhry Nisar Ali Khan will also assist the committee in its deliberations. Mian Nawaz Sharif further said that his party had agreed, though reluctantly, to not to disturb the judges appointed by the President after the November 3 Proclamation of Emergency and sworn in under the PCO. Mian Nawaz Sharif categorically said that the judges will be restored through a resolution and this matter will not be linked with any constitutional package. In his separate statement, federal law minister Farooq H Naek endorsed to the statement made by the PMLN chief. However, he added that the legislation might be required to increase the number of the judges to accommodate all the deposed and the newly appointed judges. The number of the judges is determined through an act of parliament and the present strength of the Supreme Court judges is one chief justice and sixteen judges which may be raised to accommodate the ‘PCO judges’. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and twelve other judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had been deposed on November 3, 2007. Of them Justice Bhagwandas retired in December after reaching his age of retirement while Justice Javed Iqbal accepted his retirement under the PCO and preferred to become chairman of the National Press. Therefore, the question of their restoration will depend very much on the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment. If the judges are restored without a constitutional package, the chances are that both Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Bhagwandas will not be allowed to board the train. While all other members of the committee were expected, the names of Aitzaz Ahsan and Abdul Hafeez Pirzada came as a surprise. Although Aitzaz Ahsan is president of the Supreme Court Bar Association but he has in the past been ‘snubbed’ by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on the judges’ issue. It will not be entirely wrong to assume that the fate of Aitzaz Ahsan in the PPP might not be much different from that of Makhdoom Amin Faheem. In this case, the decision on his application for candidature from NA-55 might set the ball rolling. Anyway, his name in the committee has apparently been included as he happens to be president of the SCBA. The most surprising name in the committee is that of Abdul Hafiz Pirzada. There is no doubt that Pirzada is an eminent constitutional lawyer. In fact, he was federal law minister when the 1973 Constitution was approved though the constitution in its present form and content is much different from the one approved in the seventies when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan. The original 1973 Constitution, which was supposedly co-authored by Pirzada, was a purely parliamentary constitution and was in complete contrast with its present version. Still, Pirzada has been defending the constitution in its present form. Pirzada’s views on the restoration of the deposed judges are in complete contrast with all other members of the committee constituted by the PPP and the PMLN. According to him, the judges cannot be restored through a parliamentary resolution and the only way to restore them was through a constitutional amendment. The inclusion of his name in the committee therefore appears to be linked with ascertainment of the opposite side’s viewpoint even though he may not be formally representing any party. Pirzada has not been involved in active politics after Bhutto’s execution. His acceptance to be a member of the committee may mark his return to active politics. The committee’s mandate or the terms of its reference have not yet been made public. However, it is clear that the committee will be working on a constitutional package which will be brought into force simultaneously with the restoration of the judges. If the committee’s task was just to review the draft resolution for restoration of the judges, it would not need ten days to accomplish this task. The draft resolution has already been published by Fakhruddin G Ibrahim and the committee’s constitutional luminaries would have given their input in a single session. Therefore, it is quite clear that the main task of the committee is to finalize the constitutional package. Farooq H Naek has admitted that the committee will be working on a constitutional package and in case it is unable to resolve its differences on a particular point the matter will be referred to Sharif and Zardari for final determination. He did not give any details of the constitutional package though he admitted that the Law Ministry had already prepared a draft bill for the constitutional amendment. It will be this draft constitutional bill on which the committee will be working in the next few days. Obviously, it will be an amendatory bill and it will not be approved unless President Musharraf and the PMLQ, as well as MQM, approve it. President Musharraf has openly admitted that his actions of November 3 were not in accordance with the Constitution. According to Mian Nawaz Sharif, that could be a good ground for his impeachment. A thirteen member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has already validated President Musharraf’s extra-constitutional actions on February 15. Therefore, President Musharraf’s first preference will be to get an amendment approved from the parliament on the pattern of the Seventeenth Amendment failing which he will like the status quo to continue. The continuation of the status quo would mean non-return of the deposed judges. President Musharraf has already said in unambiguous terms that the judges deposed by him were no more judges. Despite that Zardari agreed with Sharif at Bhurban on March 9 that the deposed judges will be restored through a parliamentary resolution to the position of November 2 within thirty days. Ever since the parties signed the Bhurban Accord, the Establishment and a certain section of the media did their best to sabotage the Bhurban Accord. It was perhaps for this reason that the venue of high level discussions between the PPP and the PMLN was shifted to Dubai. The Dubai Agreement has therefore come as a big shock for the Establishment. The circles loyal to the Establishment are rejoicing claiming that the Bhurban Accord has been defeated in letter and spirit. They are justified in their jubilation for two reasons: firstly, the judges could not be restored within a deadline of thirty days; and secondly, the decision to retain the PCO judges would mean a compromise on the principled stand of the restoration of the judiciary to the position of November 2. Their euphoria on the ‘failure’ of the Bhurban Accord is an indirect confession of their conspiracies against the PPP-PMLN coalition. Zardari and Sharif are well aware of these conspiracies but want to keep the coalition in tact though for different reasons. The agreement that was brokered by the Bush Administration between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto envisaged an alliance between PPP and the “king’s parties” in the aftermath of the general elections. In accordance with this agreement, the Establishment wanted PPP to abandon its coalition with PMLN after formation of the government. They cleared Zardari of all criminal and corruption cases against him making it clear to him between the lines that all these cases will stand restored if the deposed chief justice and the judges were allowed to return. Apparently, Sharif has guaranteed Zardari that the deposed judges will not touch the NRO after their restoration. The PMLN has no option but to cooperate with PPP. However, PPP does have an option to join the “king’s parties” to stay in government. Pakistan Peoples Party has already negotiated a deal of long term friendship with the MQM. As for the PMLQ, President Musharraf is already working on changing its top leadership to make it more acceptable for Zardari. Chaudhris of Gujrat seem willing to sacrifice in favour of a docile leader like Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali but not in favour of a ‘rebel’ like Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Yet, for Zardari, it will not be less than a political suicide if he decides to join hands with the reshaped PMLQ at the cost of the PMLN. Those who believe that the judges will be restored on the new date announced by the PMLN chief must hold their breaths and call the day clear only at night. In view of the ongoing ‘palace intrigues’ with the logistic support of the embassy witchcraft, it will be naïve to hope that the deposed judges will be easily restored on May 12, a day which has the history of the bloodiest bloodshed in our country. Even if they are restored with their wings clipped through a constitutional amendment that would not bring the judicial crisis to an end. The crisis will continue to worsen as long as one of the arch rivals is forcibly removed from the scene. Zardari is a shrewd politician. His ten years active espousal with Benazir Bhutto and eleven years passive ‘training’ in different prisons has mastered him in the art of politics. He understands it very well that once he has parted his ways with PMLN, he will have no option but to dance to the Establishment’s tunes or to face a disgraceful exit from power. It is for this reason that Zardari has agreed to reinstate the judges preferably by May 12 with necessary checks and balances. PMLN leaders are not very happy with the constitutional package but they are confident that once restored the deposed judges will be able to look after themselves.

Source: The Frontier Post, 4/5/2008

 Posted by at 4:29 pm

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