The NRO and Insecure PCO judges-I

The News International,

Monday, October 5, 2009

For many people it may still be a misery as to exactly why Asif Ali Zardari did not restore the judiciary right after the elections? And, more importantly, if he never intended to restore the chief justice of Pakistan, why did he then enter into the agreements with Nawaz Sharif, when he never intended to stand them?

While no one  knows the exact  answer to the above question, the following may help unravel the miseries surrounding the president in action on the matter. In February, 2008, as a head of Party that was positioned to win the coming elections on huge sympathy where that was generated by the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto , Mr. found in his left to vital gifts both courtesy of General Musharaf. One was the NRO and the second were the insecure PCO judges who are knee to do any …….continue in their postion.

In February immediately after the 40th day of Benazir death Mr. Zardari said about using the above two opportunities for his maximum advantage. What people do not know is that while the NRO gave him and his friends the opportunity to have all the corruption cases being pursued against him withdrawn, the insecurity of the PCO judges meant that this could be used to have even criminal cases against him withdrawn even those that had no link with the NRO.

Right after the election, Mr. Zardari went to Raiwind and made a commitment to restore chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and other honourable judges who had refused to take oath. This was followed by a number of meetings and accords between him and Mr. Shrif, in Murree, then Dubai, then Islamabad the commitments even becoming part of two formal agreements.

Throughout that time, many in country was perplexed as to why Mr. Zardari was taking his party and his government into a political cul_de_sac. By doing this he also ensure that his party not only stood on the wrong side of the most popular public demand, and that too for no substantive and after having made a commitment to the contrary. The result was a blow to the PP’s popularity and credibility. Eventually, though, the party had to give in to the sheer will of the people and restore the chief justice and other judges.

Why did the president act this way, with regard to the restoration issue? Three days before the election, on February 15, 2008 Asif Ali Zardari had already placed all his bets with the PCO judges, expecting them to deliver on all his demands if they wanted to remain in their jobs.His subsequent meeting with Nawaz Sharif and agreement and oral commitments were just a way to kick-Dogar and other PCO judges to complete their assigned job at the earliest. On February 15, 2008 just after 40th day of Benazir murder, and three days before election that Mr. Zardari Filed a constitution petition (D- 265/2008) in the Sindh High Court seeking a direction to the federal government and to NAB to withdraw all proceeding against him that they might still be pursuing in UK and Geneva courts as well as before the courts in Pakistan. The cases included the SGS reference, ARY gold reference, BMW car reference, the Coteena reference, the Rusus tractor reference and the Polo ground reference. Also, Zardari retain Malik Qayyum as attorney general. It was thus that whenever that petition was fixed and Zardari withdrawal application under the NRO were fixed before any court, both counsels one representing the accused and other representing the state of Pakistan were taking instruction from the same person.

Justice Dogar, then acting as a chief justice of Pakistan, too was not found missing in his keenness to help Zardari that get quick acquittal. It was thus on February 15, 2008 while hearing constitution petition 77,77/2007 (Petition that actually challenged the validity of NRO), that a five member bench of PCO judges-Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar, Justice Ijaz ul Hassan, justice Chaudhary Ejaz Yousal- issued the following directions to all sub ordinate courts: —- “—-the courts and uthorities concerned shall proceed further expeditiously in the light of the provisions of the ordinance without being influenced by the pendency of these petitions:”

Acting on the above direction, and realizing that the fate of all PCO judges now lay in the hands of one man, the Sindh High Court, took it upon itself to supervise the earliest withdrawal of all corruption cases against Zardari. It was thus two PCO judges, Khawaja Naveed and Ali Sain Dino Metelo while hearing Asif Zardari’s constitutional petition (D-265/2008), in the compliance of above Supreme Court order, directed NAB and government to file a report in court conforming that they had withdrawn all corruption cases against Zadari, including confirmation that they had ceased all kinds of cooperation with all foreign prosecuting authorities against Asif Zardari on the basis of above mention supreme court order.

The Sindh High Court petition was fixed again and again, with counsels from both sides insisting earliest withdrawal of cases. It was finally on 17 September, 2008, that the counsels representing NAB and federal government, now under the virtual and legal control of President Zardari, through Deputy Attorney General Amir Raza Naqwi and NAB counsel Salman Aslam Butt confirm the compliance report before the same two member bench of Sindh High Court consisting of the same judges who had directed withdrawal, therefore i.e., Khawaja Naveed and Ali Sain Dino Metelo.

As for the proceeding in Swiss courts the Deputy Attorney General, on behalf of the federal government, produced a copy of letter regarding the termination of the proceedings before the swiss courts and inform the court that all the proceeding against the petitioners had been withdrawn. It was thus that investigating magistrate, Geneva, was forced to drop a proceedings against Zardari regarding criminal conspiracy to defraud Pakistan for his personal financial interest,

As for UK case relating to the infamous Surrey Palace, DAG confirmed that all the proceedings against Zardari before high court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, commercial court London, regarding the sale of Rockwood Estate in Surrey (UK) had also been terminated.

Lastly, with regard to NAB references, DAG confirmed that all seven NAB references against Zardari-assets reference, SGS references, ARY gold reference, BMW car reference, the Coteena reference, the Rusus tractor reference and the Polo ground reference- that were pending against the petitioner before the accountability courts in Rawalpindi had been withdrawn by the government.

After the above DAG statement, the petitioners counsel Abu Bakar Zardari and Haider Ali did not pressed their petition and honourable justice Khawaja Naveed and Ali Sain Dino Metelo disposed off the petition through the following order: (Odersheet CPD- 265 0f 2008) September 16-“—-the Learned DAG states that one the request of the government of Pakistan criminal proceedings pending against the petitioners in Swiss courts have been closed and the civil proceedings pending against him in the high court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, commercial court London, United Kingdom, have terminated. In the view of statement made by the learned DAG, learned counsel for the petitioner does not press the petition. Accordingly, the petition along with the listed applications is disposed off as not pressed.”

(To be continued)