A wake-up call for the government

The arrests of former Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) managing director Adnan Khawaja and former head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed from the apex courtroom should serve as a wake-up call to the government. The arrests were made because both Khawaja and Brigadier Imtiaz had been convicted in corruption cases but were later pardoned under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The Supreme Court (SC) had declared the NRO null and void last year and directed the government to implement its verdict in letter and spirit. Instead, we saw the government dragging its feet on the verdict despite several claims to the contrary. Logically, both Khawaja and Brigadier Imtiaz should have been either back in jail or on bail if their bail had remained valid. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should have acted on the SC’s orders after the NRO was declared unconstitutional but it did not. And it must be said that the government’s decision to let Adnan Khawaja continue as the chairman of the National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (Navtec) after the NRO verdict and later appointing him as the managing director OGDC were in clear violation of the law. Arrests made inside courtrooms, let alone the SC, are not a norm in the legal world, but it seems that the SC has finally lost patience with the government’s lack of action. New precedents are being set in Pakistan’s legal history.

The SC has also directed the government to reopen the Swiss cases against President Zardari. The law secretary has been directed to move a summary to the prime minister by September 24 in accordance with paragraph 178 of the NRO judgement, which states that since the NRO is not valid any more, “it is declared that the initial requests for mutual legal assistance; securing the status of civil party and the claims lodged to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries, including Switzerland, are declared never to have been withdrawn”. Once the law secretary has done the SC’s bidding and a letter by the government of Pakistan is sent to the Swiss authorities to open the cases against President Zardari, it still remains to be seen whether the Swiss would be willing to take any action or not. These cases were withdrawn during the Musharraf regime. Under both domestic and international law, the president has immunity from prosecution, an issue that may still prevent the will of the SC becoming reality. The SC had taken to task former Attorney General (AG) Malik Qayyum for withdrawing the Swiss cases, but Qayyum maintains that he had not acted on his own. It is difficult to conceive that the former AG acted without the instructions of then president Musharraf. Whatever course the Swiss authorities decide to take is of course within their purview, but the government should not indulge in delaying tactics any longer.

If the government has any issues with writing a letter, it should move a review petition and ask the respectable lordships for advice. The case for not sending a letter should be solid enough to convince the apex court. Apart from this, the government must also sort out the NAB mess and make the necessary appointments as the SC has been repeatedly advising. The SC will not allow the government to get away with procrastination indefinitely. All cases under the NRO should be reopened in the light of the SC’s verdict and the legal course adhered to. Out of the 8,041 NRO beneficiaries, only 34 are politicians. The government should shed its fears and let the logic of the law take its course.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


SadafFayyaz said…
A very nice article........
mehmal said…
thanks :)

Popular posts from this blog

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part V)

The myth of September 6, 1965

Freedoms and sport