A 17-judge full court that had taken up the government’s petition for a review of a verdict against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) allowed Mr Azfar to withdraw from the case although he had pleaded the federation’s case in the first round. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the Islamabad police chief on Thursday to personally investigate a complaint about a threat made to Barrister Kamal Azfar allegedly by a lawyer believed to be close to government circles even though he had disassociated himself from the NRO case.

A 17-judge full court that had taken up the government’s petition for a review of a verdict against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) allowed Mr Azfar to withdraw from the case although he had pleaded the federation’s case in the first round.

Mr Azfar has alleged that Advocate Abubakar Zardari, who was not even enrolled as a Supreme Court lawyer, threatened him and his wife in Karachi and asked him not to appear in the NRO case. “I have been in politics for the past 40 years and I know that Abubakar is not acting on his own and cannot call me but at someone’s behest,” he alleged.

The complaint annoyed Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja who said he himself had received some threats but hastened to add that matters like these where even a senior counsel was not spared should be taken seriously, otherwise judges would be the next target. “Succumbing to these things, we might pack up and leave this responsibility,” he said.

“Surely, this is obstruction of the administration of justice,” Justice Saqib Nisar said, suggesting initiation of contempt of court proceedings against Advocate Abubakar.

At the outset of the proceedings, the chief justice said the registrar’s office had sent him a fax message of Mr Azfar in which he had stated that he had twice received threats from Abubakar Zardari that if he attended the court proceedings on Thursday there would be physical or verbal abuse, or both.

The threat was conveyed to him by his wife Naheed Jafri Azfar from Karachi by phone, the statement said, assuring the court that he would attend the proceedings come what may and, therefore, “please take necessary precaution for the decorum of the court”.

The registrar solicited orders for police protection to Mr Azfar as well as his wife, even though he had quit the case.

Additional Attorney General K.K. Agha, expressing deep regrets, disappointment and shock over the matter, assured the court that the federation would never indulge in such acts and said he had been working with Mr Azfar.

Mr Agha supported the request of Mr Azfar to let him withdraw in the given situation, particularly when the federation had already prayed for his substitution.

Advocate Abubakar, who was present in the court, explained that he respected Mr Azfar and denied having ever threatened the counsel himself or through his associate Sardar Zulqarnain.

“Without prejudice to the stand taken by either of the parties, we are prima facie of the opinion that the matter requires to be probed into because apparently it seems to be interference in the administration of justice, allegedly by a person who has nothing to do with the instant proceedings except that he is an advocate of the Sindh High Court and is practising over there,” the order said.

The court ordered Islamabad Police Inspector General Wajid Durrani to personally conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit a report to the registrar within three days, on receipt of which a bench would be constituted to deal with the issue separately.

When asked to present his arguments, Mr Agha repeated his earlier stance that he had no instructions except to argue for an application for substitution of the federation’s counsel with Dr Khalid Ranjha.

The court suggested that he could have assistance of any counsel while arguing the case even at the rostrum, but he again said that he would have to seek fresh instructions and it was not possible for him to make a statement at the time.

On repeated requests, the court adjourned the matter for Monday to let Mr Agha persuade the federation to appoint him as the lead counsel.

Updated Apr 14, 2011 10:00pm

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