The Supreme Court on Monday granted Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf 22 days to implement the court’s verdict in the NRO implementation case after assurance by the chief executive of the country of making “genuine and serious steps” to resolve the impasse in the issue.
The prime minister would have to appear before the bench on September 18 to inform the court what steps had been taken to implement the court’s order in NRO judgment. Earlier, amid tight security across the Red Zone, the prime minister headed to the SC flanked by a number of leaders of the PPP and coalition parties. A five-member special bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Athar Saeed resumed the hearing in the 2009 NRO judgment case. At the onset of the proceedings, the PM went to the rostrum and said in response to a show-cause notice issued to him by the court that it was an honor for him to appear in person before the court.
He said he had taken charge of his office two months back and there were many issues confronting the country, including worsening law and order, Balochistan disorder, energy crises and ties with foreign states, especially the US.
He said at the same time, the NRO implementation case, one of the important cases, had also got hype and created ambiguity and uncertainty not only inside the country but also gripped the Pakistani expatriates living abroad.
Ashraf said he was under pressure regarding the issue, but wanted to resolve it in a manner so that dignity of the court was preserved. He said being a political worker and law-abiding citizen, he wanted that there should be no impression that the judiciary was not respected.
“It is also a requirement of my office that respect of the judiciary be preserved,” he added. The PM said he would require four to six weeks to understand the constitutional and legal aspects of the case and to engage his counsel to submit his reply over the show-cause notice issued to him by the court, therefore, he might be granted time to make sincere efforts in this regard. “For the betterment and solidarity of the country and removal of this air of uncertainty, I require four to six weeks’ time,” he maintained. Referring to the leaders of the coalition partners in the PPP-led government; Ashraf said his government’s allies were also of the opinion that the court verdicts should be respected.
However, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that since 1975, the Supreme Court through its verdicts had maintained that a person issued show-cause notice under contempt of court had to appear before the court in person. “If anyone appears before the court, it enhances his dignity. The history remembers him in good words and your appearance here is a laudable step. But mere appearance is not enough to show respect for the judiciary, rather its orders should also be implemented,” he observed. Justice Khosa informed the PM that in former PM Gilani’s case, the bench had ruled in its order that PM’s office would have no discretion in the instant matter. Dispelling any impression of confrontation between judiciary and executive, Justice Khosa said they only wanted implementation of para 178 of the NRO judgment and they did not mention any prosecution or any person.
“If you, the federal government, have any concerns, we are ready to go to every extent to address the same. The matter is blown out of proportion but you can resolve the issue even today,” he added. The prime minister regretted that the issue had been played up by the media and said being a political worker, he was not using delaying tactics to further linger on with the matter, rather he wanted to resolve the issue once and for all.
The bench observed that he could take steps to implement the verdict and could go for inquiry himself as to why the issue had been delayed for the last two-and-a-half years.
Justice Athar Saeed complained that certain members of federal cabinet, governors, senators and members of parliament were using contemptuous language against the judiciary that should stop. Voicing his concern over the remarks of his Justice Athar, Justice Khosa observed that such an impression was being created that certain people were well-versed with the law while the judges knew nothing.
Ashraf also tried to pass the buck to the media for showing disrespect towards judiciary and told the bench that there were 89 television channels airing transmissions across the country and they were making a mockery of the president and prime minister’s offices. But the PM said there should be no disrespect for the judiciary.
Justice Khosa told Ashraf to make a serious and positive commitment over implementation of its directives, assign that the bench was willing to address his concerns and facilitate him. He said they had asked the PM Office to authorize someone like Law Minister Farooq H Naik to implement its orders vis-à-vis writing a letter to Swiss authorities.
He also made it clear to the PM that he would have no other option to consult anyone, as they had already laid down in its verdict, as it would have implications. PM Ashraf said the NRO matter was debated whenever he met ambassadors and other foreign dignitaries.
He asked the bench to consider what would be the effects of contempt notice served upon him if he was visiting abroad. Justice Khosa replied that it was their desire to see him as the prime minister until next elections and advised him to make sincere commitment for implementing the court order.
He told Ashraf that the bench had great regard for his office. Law Minister Naik also went to the rostrum and requested the bench to consider the request by the prime minister, as he was showing commitment of making serious efforts to resolve the issue.
Later, the bench dictated its order stating that upon the prime minister’s request, it was persuaded to adjourn the matter until September 18. However, the bench told Law Minister Farooq Naik that being respondent of a show-cause notice, the prime minister would have to appear before the court in person on the next date of hearing.
PPP, coalition leaders escort Ashraf:
Earlier, PPP stalwarts and coalition parties’ leaders escorted the prime minister to apex court building. They included Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, Defence Minister Naveed Qamar, Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister for Law Farooq Naik, Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Faheem, Minister for Kashmir Affairs Manzoor Watto, Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Ghauri, State Minister for Water and Power Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Nadeem Afzal Gondal and Senator Haji Adeel. Owing to the arrival of the PM, security had been beefed up under the supervision of Interior Minister Rehman Malik within and outside the premises of the Supreme Court. The Red Zone was sealed from 7am to 11am, while aerial surveillance was also done with two helicopters. Walk-through gates had been installed and the parking lot was also vacated.