Memo a bid against sovereignty: SC

Supreme CourtISLAMABAD: In a dramatic development, the memogate case, which had seemingly been overshadowed by Saturday’s NATO/ISAF attack in Mohmand Agency, resurfaced with a bang on Thursday as the Supreme Court, admitting the petitions for a regular hearing, observed that the memo seemed to be an attempt on the sovereignty of the country, sought replies from the president, the army chief and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief within 15 days and formed an enquiry commission with a direction to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security to forward all details of the issue to the commission.

The apex court appointed former Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general Tariq Khosa the head of the commission to collect evidence in the memo issue and told him to submit his report within three weeks. The court directed all the provincial governments and the security agencies as well as Pakistan’s missions abroad to cooperate with the commission in collection of evidence. The court also empowered the commission to seek assistance of any retired police officers to complete the task. The Cabinet Division was also told to provide full logistical support to the commission.

The mood of the court with regard to the case was clear from the very outset with the remarks and the observations of the judges – who were apparently convinced that a conspiracy against the state and the army had been hatched – as Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was heading the nine-member bench hearing the case, noted that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had reportedly stated that a communication did take place between Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani and Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

HAQQANI: The court told Haqqani not to leave the country, observing that the Interior and Foreign Ministry would be responsible if he did. The court told the government that a special prosecutor general should be tasked with collecting pre-trial evidence from the persons involved in the matter as well as the other parties concerned to determine the legal status of the memo along with the reasons that necessitated its writing.

Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the court that in response to a parliamentary resolution and on orders from the prime minister, the matter of the memo was sent to a 14-member Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which would begin examining the matter after Muharram, thus the matter may be referred to it. The court held that although it did not differ from the mandate of parliament, the committee had no constitutional mandate to investigate the issue.

To a court query, the attorney general stated that the issue could be investigated under the Army Act but the court said if the committee had any evidence, it should hand it over to the enquiry commission.The chief justice observed that the court could not compromise on the sovereignty and defence of the country.

After hearing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif, who had once appeared in court as an accused in the 1990s, the court accepted the pleas for regular hearing under Article 184(3) of the constitution. Upon his arrival, Nawaz was received by the deputy registrar of the Supreme Court.The court noted that prima facie it seemed as if Haqqani, who was guardian of the country’s interests as ambassador, sent the memo to former US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen through Ijaz. It said anyone involved in the matter must have their own interests, thus must be prosecuted.

The court noted that the memo issue involved questions such as whether it was a matter of civil nature in which negligence was committed, and its results attract the provisions of Article 6, or whether it was a criminal matter.What rang alarm bells in the Presidency were the remarks of Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani that the president could be punished for conspiring against the state and the army under Article 5 of the constitution.The court heard all nine petitioners, including Nawaz Sharif, who demanded the memo issue be probed as it was a conspiracy to break the country. He requested the court to summon the president, the army chief, the ISI chief and other respondents to ascertain the facts of the matter.

He said he was not directly leveling allegations against the president but questioned how an ambassador dared to write such a memo without the consent of the prime minister.When Justice Mian Saqib Nisar asked Nawaz why the court should interfere in the matter in the presence of parliament, the PML-N chief expressed lack of confidence in parliament, saying an institution whose resolutions had not been respected could not be entrusted with an enquiry of this magnitude.“Had we put this issue before parliament, it would do nothing as the opposition was not taken into confidence on many issues,” he stated. – PT