‘The letter’ will be written!

Raja n Naek

A thaw in the executive-judiciary row became evident on Tuesday when the Supreme Court gave the government seven more days to present a draft of the letter to be sent to Swiss authorities in line with the court’s judgment in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case, as Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told a five-member bench that he had authorized the law minister to withdraw the letter written by former attorney general Malik Qayyum vis-à-vis Swiss case and Naik would now take steps for implementing the apex court’s directive in relevant para of the NRO judgment.
However, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa made sure the government could no more toy with the court over the Swiss letter by announcing a four-point road-map to be followed by the government.

(i) Authorization to law minister by the prime minister for writing the letter to Swiss authorities on behalf of the chief executive.

(ii) The draft letter to be produced to the bench on September 25 to examine whether the letter meets requirements of para 178 of the NRO judgment.

(iii)Communication to be made through the attorney general

(iv) Receipt of such communication whether the letter has been received to relevant authorities in Switzerland.

During the proceedings on Tuesday, the PM once again used soft language and looked humble towards the court. His conduct has been contrary to his predecessor, Yousaf Raza Gilani, who used to make bold statements. The positive development has answered several questions raised by commentators, reflecting that the Presidency had different policies for former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the incumbent, Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Pakistan Today was the first to report differences between President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Gilani on June 17. Only two days later, Gilani was disqualified by the top court of the country. Appearing before the bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, the prime minister said under SC’s previous observation, he had directed the law minister to fully cooperate with the court in implementation of its directive in the NRO case, and pleaded that in face of various national and international issues and pressing engagements, he might be given exemption from personal appearance in the court.
Accepting his request, the bench granted him exemption from personal appearance until further orders.
Prime Minister Ashraf informed the bench that per his commitment during the previous hearing to make his best efforts to resolve the issue, he had directed the law minister to write the letter as the issue had created unrest and uncertainty among the people and government functionaries and was also affecting state apparatus.
“After looking into the complexities of the issue, I have instructed the law minister that the letter written by Malik Qayyum, former attorney general, whom the court had termed unauthorized and illegal in its judgment, would be withdrawn,” he added.
He also pleaded that the court might address “the concerns of the federation” involved in the issue. Ashraf pointed out that he had made sincere efforts to address the concerns of the federation and upholding dignity of the judiciary. He said the concerns were not about Asif Ali Zardari, but about the office of the president.
Expressing optimism, the PM noted that the issue would now be resolved.
Enumerating his pressing engagements, he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was due in Pakistan on October 2, while President Asif Ali Zardari would leave for New York to address the United Nations session in the coming days.
Most recently, the country had faced floods while the general elections were also round the corner, Ashraf said.
He said being a prime minister and general secretary of the PPP, he would have to take steps to protect the constitutional sanctity of the office of president and dignity of the court.
The bench praised his efforts for resolving the long-standing issue.
Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa told the PM that they would have to adopt the stated four steps for implementation of its directive.
Firstly, the authorization should be produced in writing, secondly, the draft of the letter should meet the directive contained in para 178 and should be to the satisfaction of the court; thirdly, the dispatch to and receipt by the concerned Swiss and other authorities and fourthly, confirmation of such communication.
He assured the PM that the bench would address the federation’s concerns and would not go beyond what they had written in para 178.
Drawing his attention to a verdict in former prime minister’s contempt case, Justice Khosa said they had already written four paras regarding international immunity for the head of state under customary laws.
Upon the bench’s insistence to complete the first two processes within two days, Ashraf requested the court to defer proceedings until the end of this month.
The bench told Law Minister Farooq H Naik that the prime minister had directed him on the issue and he had to comply with his directives. Naik assured the bench that he was not seeking time for any other reason but would make efforts to draft a letter to the satisfaction of the bench.
“We want to give a message to the nation that there is no clash of institutions,” he maintained.
Upon his assurance, the bench adjourned proceedings until September 25, and noted down in its order that the prime minister and the law minister had undertaken before the court that the written approval of the letter and draft of the letter would be produced before the court to meet requirement of directions in para 178 of the NRO judgment.

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