Azam Sultan Suharwardy
LAHORE: The ruling coalition has already initiated the impeachment movement against President Musharraf but the question is whether the president would be able to take the issue to the Supreme Court in case he decides to fight for his survival.
Political experts believe it is very much possible but only if the president decides to confront the proposed impeachment move against him. If the charge sheet against the president highlights issues on which the Supreme Court has already given a verdict like the orders of October 12, 1999 and November 3, 2007, then the Supreme Court of Pakistan can exercise the jurisdiction of Suo Motto on being approached by any side. The assembly cannot impeach the president even if corruption charges against the president during are made the basis for impeachment. The Supreme Court can intervene and make it clear to the ruling coalition that they can only impeach the president for something he had done after the new government came into existence.
If the president committed corruption during the term of the former assembly then the impeachment of the president falls into their jurisdiction and not of the current coalition set up. The previous government did not exercise this jurisdiction against the president which clearly indicates that they did not term any of the president’s actions as corrupt.
The Supreme Court possessed the authority to exercise its jurisdiction, in case an old issue is made the reason for President Musharraf’s impeachment. The makers of the charge sheet would therefore have to take great care with the task. A poignant charge sheet will provide the president an opportunity to take the issue to the Supreme Court, and getaway with the proposed impeachment. It would be similar to the way deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry did not allow the issue of his termination to reach Supreme Judicial Council that possessed the power to terminate him. Instead the deposed CJ took the matter to the Supreme Court which declared the reference as not prosecutable and therefore could not be taken to the Supreme Judicial Council.
The president can adopt the same strategy by taking the issue of his impeachment to the Supreme Court and bypass the parliament. The president’s position is expected to be strengthened if the ruling coalition makes similar mistakes what the president’s legal team did while drafting reference against deposed CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry.
It is also pertinent to mention that impeachment of the president cannot be brought forth on the basis of an action that he committed as the army chief since the parliament does not possess the power to impeach an army chief. Many leaders of the ruling coalition have repeatedly claimed that the decisions taken by the president as army chief should be made the grounds for his impeachment but they failed to recognise the fact that president took the steps of October 12 and November 3 as an army chief, who cannot be impeached by the parliament. The right of army chief’s impeachment instead, rests with executive head of the state and the supreme commander and not with the parliament.
Source: The Post, 12/8/2008