SC offers to halt contempt proceedings if PM writes the letter

supreme court of pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A seven-member special bench of the Supreme Court on Friday extended an offer to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of halting contempt proceedings against him even at this stage if he admitted his mistake and wrote to Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The special bench consists of Justice Nasirul Mulk, 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. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan, however, contended before the bench that under national as well as international law, a letter could neither be written against the president, nor should it be written.

The bench asked Aitzaz that when the president enjoyed immunity according to his stance, why was the letter not being written, as nothing would happen even if it was. Justice Nasirul Mulk noted that writing the letter was meant to restore the claim of Pakistan’s civil party on the amounts in Swiss accounts. Aitzaz then contended that writing a letter against the president would be embarrassing for the entire nation.

“Impeach the president, there will be a way out for writing the letter,” Aitzaz said. Aitzaz contended that the prime minister acted on a summary by the Law Ministry. He said his client thought that letter could not be written against the president, as he enjoyed absolute immunity until he was president. The bench noted that the point of immunity was not raised at the stage of review against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) judgment.

Justice Ijaz Afzal noted that the prime minister was firm on not obeying court orders. “Can any one say that he will implement the court order by his own will,” he inquired. Aitzaz contended that writing the letter was tantamount to withdrawing the immunity of the president. To a court query, he said the letter should not be written until Asif Ali Zardari held the office of the president. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa noted that it seemed as if the prime minister would not write the letter during his tenure as the PM.

“If it happens, everyone would do so on different pretexts,” Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed observed. Concluding his arguments, Aitzaz pleaded that the court’s earlier order pertaining to writing a letter without any summary or advice should not come into effect in the present case.Meanwhile, the court adjourned hearing for Tuesday, directing the attorney general, who is acting as the prosecutor in the contempt case, to start his arguments on Tuesday. Talking to reporters later, Aitzaz said a new bench should be constituted to hear the contempt of court case against the prime minister.

He opined that under Article 10-A of the constitution‚ the bench presently hearing the case could not hear it, as it had initiated the proceedings itself. He said he still expected the court to refrain from asking the prime minister to write the letter to Swiss authorities. Aitzaz said parliament was independent and could make constitutional amendments, and couls even nullify any order of the court. – PT