The NRO and Insecure PCO judges- II

The News International

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The following will show that while Zardari was making commitments to the whole nation to restore the chief justice, the PCO judges were deligently working for his benefit, rightly having no doubt that Zardari had no intention of restoration of the chief justice, if only they delivered. On Feb 15, 2008, Asif Zardari filed his constitutional petition before the Sindh High Court asking that the federal government and the NAB be ordered to immediately give him the benefit of the NRO by withdrawing all listed cases against him. on Feb 18 the elections were held. On Feb 28, Dogar directed the courts to give the NRO benefit “expeditiously.” The very next day, in compliance with the Supreme Court direction, the Sindh High Court issued the required direction the NAB and Federal Government.

In the meantime, Zardari held several meetings with the Nawaz Sharif and, just to keep the pressure on PCO judges, on March 9, the infamous Murree Accord was signed between Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. The 30-days deadline was thus not a commitment to the nation but, in fact, a deadline to the PCO judges to deliver.

Four days later, on March 12, the SGS Cotecna case was disposed off. It was the same case in which, after the Supreme Court had set aside the conviction by Justice Malik Qayyum on April 6, 2001, the case had gone back for retrial, which was underway. On March 14, 2008, on the application of Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naik and with the consent of the opposite counsel Danishwar Malik, the Accountability Court No. 3 in Rawalpindi proceeded to acquit Ali Zardari in the famous BMW case. The presiding judge was sagheer Ahmed Qadri who, in his order, expressly stated that as the case fell outside the scope of the NRO, the acquittal was being ordered under general law.

Interestingly, it was the same case in which, after hearing Zardar’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan’s lucid arguments, a full bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry granted bail to Asif Zardari. It was on the basis of that order of the Supreme Court that Asif Zardari was released on bail and left Pakistan.

In the meantime, Zardar’s counsel Shahdat Awan filed an application for the acquittal of Zardari in the case of the double murder of Justice Nizam and his son. On March 24, 2008, another Sindh High Court PCO judge, Sofia Lateef, with the consent of special public prosecutor Naimat Ali Randhawa, procedure to acquit Zardari. Again, this acquittal to do with the NRO.

On April 08, just a day before the expirty of 30 days time deadline given in Murree Accord, another PCO judge, Peer Ali Shah of the Sindh High Court, acquitted Zardari in the Murtaza Bhutto murder case. This acquittal to had nothing to do with the NRO.

On April 09, as the 30 days deadline expired, Zardari sought an other 10 days time from Nawaz Sharif for implementation of the agreement. On the other hand, on April 15, Zardari’s counsel Yousal Laghari move an application before the District and Session Judge of Haiderabad for the acquittal of his client in Alam Baloch’s murder case. On April 16, within one day of the application being filed, the court acquitted Zardari.

As the 10 days time expired Nawaz Sharif waited in Islamabad, Asif Zardari invited him to Dubai for talks for restoration of the judiciary. By now, everone in Pakistan was confused about the real reason for Zardari’s excuse and delay. And after marathon session in Dubai, on May 9 and 10, Nawaz Sharif and Zardari held further decision on this matter in London.

On May 13, another PCO Judge of the Sindh High Court Binyamin acquitted Zardari along with the current Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shams ul Hassan, from the criminal case involving charges of smuggling out eight crates of artefacts, antiques and other contraband items on Britain, without paying any custom duty or air freight to PIA. This acquittal order was also not based on the NRO.

On May 19, Additional Session Judge Ejaz Hussain Awan in Lahore aquitted Zardari in the drug smuggling case. According to record, when the judge asked the state counsel, Aazar Latif Khan, he replied: “ I will have no objection if the court accept the acquittal plea of the accused.” This order, too, was not based on the NRO.

As for the question why Malik Qayyum was retained as attorney general, obviously it would not have looked proper if both the counsel of accused and the attorney general were from the PP. After Malik Qayyum and his subordinate, Deputy Attorney General Salman Butt, had done their duty in giving their consent to all the acquittal application, Malik Qayyum was promptly replaced with the Latif Khosa as the government’s new attorney general. By this time whatever advantage could have been taken on the basis of NRO, are by pressuring insecure and desperate PCO judges, had been taken and Zardari, now free of all criminal cases, was free to become head of the state of Pakistan. The only problem now was that Musharraf was still occupying that office.

On August 7,2008 Zardari entered into another agreement with Nawaz Sharif committing  himself to the restoration of the judiciary within 72 hours of the impeachment of the General Musharraf. Once again Nawaz Sharif fail to see that he was being used and he signed the agreement. But on August 18, when Musharraf,  under tremendous pressure on account of the deadline given by both parties, resigned, Zardari refused to abide by his commitment and instead proceeded to become of President of Pakistan. The Muslim League (N) now realizing how they had been manipulated and used, did not vote for him.

Its judgment just   delivered by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, the issues that I sought to raise on behalf of review petitioner Advocate Nadeem Ahmed standfully addressed as the Honourable Court has left it in no doubt that the PCO was void ab initio, did not have any legal affect and that the Supreme Court has no authority to exercise any legislative powers by seeking to keep the NRO on the statute books, when, by the requirements of Article 89 of the Constitution, it stood repealed on the 120th day of its promulgation.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s judgment, especially paragraph 179, 184, 185,186, 187 and 188 the NRO is to be treated as repealed from the 120th day of its promulgation i.e., Feb 2, 2008, a day by which not a single person had drawn any benefit under that statute. It is incumbent on all the courts of Pakistan, now to recall all their acquittal orders, at least those that were based on the NRO.

All the above sordid detail about how the PCO judges were used and pressure into paving the way for Mr. Asis Zardari’s becoming President of Pakistan also arises serious question about his eligibility for that most prestigious office in our country.