News & Views
THERE were some instances in the history of Pakistan when Supreme Court of Pakistan gave verdicts on the basis of ‘law of necessity’, and at least once the chamber of a chief justice of Pakistan was attacked when he did not fall in line with the government. However, it was former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who had refused to accept the unconstitutional orders to sack him. As a result of movement of the lawyers, support of civil society and some political parties the then government had to reinstate him. He had a penchant for judicial activism, and was criticized by many including those who had supported him during the movement for his reinstatement. But CJP Anwar Zaheer Jamali has a different temperament; he is sober and calm, but he has the resolve to take the Panama Leaks case to its logical conclusion.
This is an opportunity for the judiciary to rid Pakistan of corruption. In the past, whenever there were internecine conflicts between the political parties leading to chaos and anarchy, and thrice Martial Law was promulgated. In the name of corruption, the governments were removed under 58-2 (B) by the president during 1990s. Anyhow, decision of CJP Anwar Zaheer Jamali with regard to hearing the case on day to day basis has been well-received by the analysts, political parties and people at large. CJP is to retire on 29th December 2016, and it is hoped that his successor would continue to focus attention on the case with the same zeal, as it is the matter of prestige of the judiciary, which had been earned with much effort and sacrifices. Some critics say that why the CJP had not proceeded on letter written by govt.
The fact of the matter is that government had written a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali in April 2016 in regard to Panama Leaks. Since Chief Justice was in Turkey, Supreme Court’s (SC) senior judge Justice Mian Saqib Nisar – who took oath as the acting chief justice – said: “The decision on the federal government’s request will be taken by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali after his return from Turkey. In May 2016, CJ had declined the federal government’s plea to form a judicial commission to probe the Panama Papers leaks. Announcing the decision, CJP Jamali had said that for formation of commission, legislation would first have to be passed by the parliament. He added a judicial commission could not be formed until the issue of terms of reference (ToRs) is resolved by the government and the opposition parties.
“Formation of Commission of Inquiry under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 (Act VI of 1956), looking to its limited scope, will result in the constitution of a toothless Commission, which will serve no useful purpose, except giving bad name to it,” CJP Jamali wrote in the letter. The government then entered into lengthy negotiations with the opposition parties, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Supreme Court accepted petitions from Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and others to put prime minister and his family members in the dock. The Bench took up the case, and on November 3, 2016, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif submitted a written statement to the Supreme Court. He said Maryam Nawaz was a trustee of Nielsen and Nescom companies and she had not been a beneficiary of any off-Shore company. He said all the allegations levelled against Maryam Nawaz were baseless.
On the orders of the Supreme Court, Prime Minister’s Lawyer Salman Butt submitted the replies of Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz in the apex court. They have been also asked to file documents in this connection till Tuesday. After scores of meetings, the opposition parties finally evolved a consensus on the ToRs to probe into the foreign wealth of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family. “The process of accountability must start to probe into the Panama leaks, starting with the prime minister and his family,” PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan had said while talking to the media in Islamabad. Despite the decision in the meeting with the legal experts of the PML-N that it would not challenge the formation of single panel judicial commission, Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party challenged formation of commission for investigation into Panama Papers Leaks on last Saturday.
In the application filed by Barrister Zafarullah Khan, who advocates the constitution of a parliamentary committee or panel to look into the Panamagate scandal, has submitted that the court can’t constitute a commission since Enquiry Commission Bill 2016 is already pending n the Parliament for approval. The CJP, while hearing the case on 5th November had said a single member bench comprising a sitting judge of the Supreme Court will be constituted for investigation into the scandal, adding that the commission will have all the powers. Some political leaders and legal experts question the maintainability of the Supreme Court to take up cases of corruption. The constitution defines the powers of the various pillars and organs of the state for its smooth functioning. And in a constitutional polity, which we are supposed to be, it is indeed the constitution which is supreme, whereas every pillar of state insists on its primacy.
The fact of the matter is that none is superior over others; none is inferior to others; all are subservient to the constitution, and all are bound to follow dictates and stipulations of the constitution. No doubt, constitutional disputes and differences occur even in entrenched democracies; however incidence of such tiffs is indeed reduced to the minimum if all the state pillars respect the supremacy of the constitution and abide by it in letter and spirit. However, it is prerogative of Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, and all and sundry have to accept it. Anyhow this time round, it is not going to be wishy-washy affair, and SC is resolved Panama Leaks case to its logical conclusions. Of course, judiciary has to ensure even-handed justice and across board accountability to maintain and sustain its present position.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.