Full bench of Pak SC adjourns hearing on graft amnesty
The larger bench of the apex court put off the issue till May 31.
Islamabad: A 17-member full bench of Pakistan`s Supreme Court hearing the two cases related to a landmark constitutional reforms package and a controversial graft amnesty, that may trigger a stand-off between the judiciary and the executive, was adjourned on Monday.
The larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took up 15 constitutional petitions challenging provisions of the 18th constitutional amendment but put off the issue till May 31 as the government failed to submit its response.
The same bench subsequently took up review petitions filed by the government against the Supreme Court`s order striking down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that benefited President Asif Ali Zardari and over 8,000 others.
This case was adjourned till June 07 after the government made a request to change its lawyer. When the bench began hearing the petitions challenging the 18th constitutional amendment, the government`s counsel requested the court to give him two to three days to submit a response.
He acknowledged that the government should have submitted a reply within the deadline set by the apex court. Chief Justice Chaudhry asked how the hearing could be conducted without the government submitting its. The bench then put off the hearing of the petitions till May 31.
These petitions have challenged various provisions in the landmark reforms package, including the renaming of the North West Frontier Province as Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and a new method for appointing members of the superior judiciary.
In the second case, the advocate on record Raja Abdul Ghafoor said the government wanted Kamal Afzar to appear on its behalf instead of Masood Chisthi.
The bench raised several queries in this regard before putting off the matter till June 07.
Political circles were abuzz with speculation about a possible stand-off between the executive and judiciary during the hearing of these two cases.
The Pakistan People`s Party-led government appeared to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court after it refused to reopen graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland in the wake of the annulment of the NRO last year.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made an attempt to defuse the tensions between the executive and the judiciary by speaking on the phone with Chief Justice Chaudhry. Gilani said he had informed the Chief Justice that the government "honours the sovereignty of the judiciary”.
Gilani also said the Chief Justice had assured him that the judiciary will function in accordance with the law and Constitution.
He added that a decision on reopening the graft cases against Zardari will be made according to the law and the Constitution.
Top leaders of the PPP decided during a meeting chaired by Zardari last week that the government would not approach Swiss authorities to reopen cases against the President regarding the alleged laundering of USD 60 million.
The President`s aides have maintained that he enjoys immunity from prosecution under the Constitution.
The apex court will tomorrow take up a suo moto case on the government`s failure to implement its verdict striking down the NRO.
Law Minister Babar Awan, who has been summoned by a five-judge bench tomorrow, is expected to mount a strong defence of the government`s decision not to reopen cases against Zardari in Switzerland.
Observers have warned that any stand-off between the executive and the judiciary could add to the problems of the government, which is grappling with a Taliban insurgency, a crippling energy crisis and severe economic woes.