SC charges PM with contempt

SC charges PMISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Monday found Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in contempt of court for not complying with orders related to re-opening corruption cases against President Zardari and others, escalating pressure on the troubled government facing multiple court procedures that could unseat its leadership and force early elections at a time of soaring tensions with the army.

The persistence defiance on part of the federal government on implementing the apex court’s Dec 16, 2009 judgment in National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case and the verdict on the review petition led the seven-member bench hearing NRO implementation case to issue contempt of court notice to the prime minister and an order requiring him to appear in person on Jan 19.The bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed issued contempt of court notice to the PM after hearing the implementation of NRO judgment. It marks only the second time that contempt of court procedures have been initiated against a sitting prime minister in Pakistan.

Gilani was summoned to appear in court on Thursday. In November 1997, prime minister Nawaz Sharif was also found in contempt in a case which ultimately led to the resignation of president Farooq Leghari.In the fresh order the court noted that in Jan 10, 2012 order the court had asked Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to implement para 178 of the judgment in Dr Mubashir Hassan case and six options were given for the exercise of the said directions in para 6 of the Jan 10 order. “The AG was specifically directed to communicate it to the relevant authorities.

Today (Monday) the attorney general appeared before the bench and informed that although the order of the court was communicated to all the relevant authorities, including the prime (NAB) Chairman Fashi Bhukhari, who showed some arrogance in the last hearing, expressed regrets and remorse upon his behaviour, and tendered unconditional apology to the court. NAB chief’s counsel Shaiq Usmani said that the chairman is present in the court and apologies for lack of knowledge about the “court etiquette”.The counsel stated on behalf of the NAB chief: “Advice given to me (NAB chairman) was incorrect. Subsequently I took more advice and in compliance with the court order immediately proceeded against former OGDL MD Adnan Khawaja, additional DG Ahmed Riaz Sheikh, Establishment Division ex-Secretary Ismail Qureshi and former Interior Secretary-Incharge Raja Ahsan.”

He said Ismail Qureshi was arrested on Friday but the NAB court has released him on the condition that whenever he would be asked he will appear. Shaiq Usmani said that arrest warrant of former attorney general Malik Qayyum has been issued. The learned counsel said that the chairman has said he does not own the old report and therefore would file fresh interim report in the next date of hearing.  Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa asked the counsel if your client really feels regrets and remorse over his earlier stance then he should submit a written statement duly signed by him. The honourable judge asked the chairman that besides proceeding against the culprits he should also take actions against those who had passed the orders.

Prosecutor General K K Agha prayed to the court that adverse remarks related to him should be expunged from the order. Justice Khosa said that was an interim order and not the conclusive finding; and asked him to file the application to expunge the remarks.Senator Waseem Sajjad, representing Malik Qayym, said in the NRO review petition judgment a larger bench had not issued any mandatory order but said the relevant authorities may proceed in accordance with the law without influence of this court. He said that Malik Qayyum acted in bona fide manner and did not get any benefit for writing to Swiss authorities.

Justice Nasirul Mulk asked the learned counsel “We are not going to delay the matter and let the NAB report come, therefore wait till Thursday.” Waseem Sajjad said Malik Qayyum is sick therefore please pass an order that no coercive method should be used against him.Dr Abdul Basit counsel for Ahmed Riaz Sheikh stated that his client was reinstated before the December 16, 2009 NRO judgment. He said he did not become FIA additional director general of his own, but someone else has appointed him. He said the sentence awarded by Accountability Court was modified by the High Court. He said that Riaz Sheikh has undergone the punishment and completed his sentence term.

Earlier during the hearing, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa assailed the attorney-general over presenting the case without getting a response from the government. “You should not have arrived today without instructions from the respondents when it was clearly directed in the last hearing,” he said. He said comments were made on the judgment of the court without reading it and whether it should be considered by the court that the officials were not prepared to say anything and the court may issue the orders as it deems appropriate.

In response, the attorney general said he cannot say anything. Justice Nasirul Mulk said the attorney general was given two tasks about NAB and writing letters to the Swiss authorities and directed to get instructions and inform the court. The attorney general said he remained in touch till 2am with the officials and was told that the matter was under consideration.Justice Asif Khosa said this gives the impression that no one wants to appear before the court. He said media in its reports said the court declared the prime minister as dishonest while the court order stated that apparently the prime minister has not done honesty to his oath.

The court gave 20 minutes to the attorney general to get instructions from the government. Despite the 20 minutes break the attorney general could not present government’s view point after which the court issued contempt notice to the prime minister and fixed hearing for the 19th of January.“In these circumstances, we are left with no option, as a first step, to issue a show cause notice,” the notice issued by the seven-member bench stated. “The prime minister should appear personally in the court on Jan 19.”

Under Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan, a court shall have power to punish any person who, abuses, interferes with, or obstructs the process of the court (Supreme Court or a High Court) in any way or disobeys any order of the court.Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio said that the government would consult lawyers with respect to the court’s notice and that whatever would be done would be done in accordance with the law and constitution. The hearing was adjourned till January 19. – Nation