After the refusal by Justice Javed Iqbal to head the Abbottabad inquiry commission, the government knew very well that no judge would join the commission to probe the death of Saleem Shahzad without the CJ’s prior approval. The matter could have been resolved through consultation but the government would not go for it.
This has raised a number of questions. Was the government unwilling to conduct independent inquiries against the powerful army and ISI and had announced the two commissions only to divert public attention? Does the government want to put the blame for delay on the SC? What Firdous Ashiq Awan told journalists indicates that, unmindful of the grave consequences of the delay in setting up the commissions, the government is keen to establish its right to set up the bodies without consulting the CJ. Two senior SC lawyers have however maintained that while there may not be a law which binds the government to seek permission from the CJ, but there are judicial traditions, as powerful as laws, that necessitate prior consultation.
The government has succeeded in getting the journalists to call off their sit-in by conceding to their demand for a commission. The fiat has however hurt it more than the journalists who seeing through the government’s scheme have taken the issue to the SC. When matters that can best be resolved by the government land up in courts, this is bound to be considered a reflection on its performance. Over the last two years, the ruling coalition’s failure to take timely action has led it to lose turf to the military and judiciary.
The PFUJ has now requested the SC to form an enquiry commission on its own. In fact, many people had expected that the apex court would take suo motu notice of the brutal murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad. The expectation was roused by the readiness shown by the court to take up issues of public interest on its own. That this was not done had in fact perturbed many. Now that the issue is in the SC, which has summoned three federal secretaries on June 20, hopes have been roused that the killers of Saleem Shahzad will be brought to justice.