Pak SC headed for confrontation with govt?

A bench headed by the Chief Justice expressed its displeasure at the remarks of federal ministers on its handling of memogate scandal.

Updated: Dec 19, 2011, 17:54 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Supreme Court on Monday
appeared headed for a confrontation with the government, with
a bench headed by the Chief Justice expressing its displeasure
at the remarks of federal ministers on its handling of a case
related to the memogate scandal.

A nine-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry,
which is hearing a batch of petitions seeking a probe into the
alleged memo sent to the US military chief in May, asked
Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq whether former minister Babar
Awan had represented the federal government when he made
potentially derogatory remarks against the judiciary.

The chief Justice noted that President Asif Ali Zardari,
one of the 10 respondents in the case, had not filed his reply
within a deadline set by the court or denied the allegations
in the petitions.

He said the failure to deny the allegations was tantamount
to accepting the charges.

The Supreme Court took up the petitions on December 1 and
formed a commission to probe the alleged memo that had sought
US help to prevent a feared military coup in Pakistan after
the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In their replies to the court, Army chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha called
for a probe into the matter as it involved national security.

However, the government said in its response that the apex
court should dismiss the petitions as a parliamentary
commission had been tasked to investigate the memogate
scandal.

The government also challenged the court`s jurisdiction to
take up the issue.

On December 1, top leaders of the ruling Pakistan People`s
Party questioned the court`s decision to set up a commission
to probe the memo issue, saying only the executive had the
power to appoint such a panel.

PPP lawmaker Babar Awan, a close aide of President
Zardari, expressed disappointment at the court`s order.

Addressing a news conference with Information Minister
Firdous Ashiq Awan, Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah
and PPP spokesman Qamar Zaman Kaira, Awan had contended that
the apex court had issued its order without giving the federal
government an opportunity to present its views.

During today`s proceedings, Chief Justice Chaudhry
observed that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should have
taken notice of Babar Awan`s criticism of the judiciary.

He said the government functionaries had ridiculed the
judiciary in flagrant violation of the dignity of the court.

The bench asked the Attorney General to ascertain from the
Prime Minister whether action would be taken against the PPP
leaders for the views they had expressed.

The court also sought the views of the respondents on the
replies submitted by the army and ISI chiefs and Mansoor Ijaz,
the Pakistani-American businessman who made the memo public
and adjourned the case till Thursday.

In the recent past, the apex court has repeatedly
pressured the government to reopen corruption cases that were
closed under a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler
Pervez Musharraf.

The court has already scrapped the National Reconciliation
Ordinance, which was used to close graft cases against over
8,000 people, including President Zardari.

The government has not taken any action so far to reopen
cases of alleged money laundering that were filed against
Zardari in Switzerland.

Presidential aides have said that Zardari enjoys immunity
from prosecution.

PTI