ISLAMABAD, June 23: As the Supreme Court (SC) has not decided the fate of the decisions taken by the former prime minister after April 26, the date of his disqualification, his nominee for the post of the chairman, custom appellate tribunals, has assumed his duties.
The chairman was appointed by the former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and a notification in this regard was issued by the ministry of law and justice on June 18.
According to the notification, Mohammad Arshad Tabrez, who remained a defence counsel of Mr Zardari in corruption references till the time he became the president in 2008, will head 17 custom courts across the country for a period of two years.
Raja Amir Abbas, a senior lawyer, said all the decisions taken by the former prime minister after April 26 could only become effective if the SC gives them indemnity, he added.
He said Mr Tabrez should have deferred his joining till the issuance of detailed judgment.
Amjad Iqbal Qureshi, another lawyer, however, said the Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of July 31, 2009, in which it had struck down the extra-constitutional decisions taken by the former president Pervez Musharraf while proclaiming emergency on November 3, 2007, also provided safeguards to some decisions of the dictator.
He said if all the decisions of Mr Gilani were declared unconstitutional, the appointments of 15 judges in the Superior Courts and elevation of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed in the SC and Umer Ata Bandial as Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice would be reversed.
According to the sources, the ministry of law and justice, asked Mr Tabrez to immediately assume the charge.
The sources said he replaced the officiating chairman Akhtar Awan because the latter had allegedly annoyed the then law minister Farooq H. Naek by writing a letter to him on June 15 seeking implementation of the national judicial policy in the custom courts and giving them under the administrative control of the judiciary.
According to the National Judicial Policy, “all special courts, tribunals now under the administrative control of executive must be placed under the control and supervision of the judiciary”, said the letter.
Mr Awan also recommended the elevation of the judges of tribunals in different provinces with the consultation of the respective chief justices of the high courts.
The letter said since the appellate forum of the tribunals was the provincial high courts, therefore, the tribunals’ judges should be appointed with the consent of the respective chief justices.
Senior officials of the ministry of law and justice, however, said the change of command in the tribunals made in accordance with the law.
Rafiq Shah, law ministry's spokesman said, the ministry was the competent authority to appoint any eligible and qualified person as head of these tribunals.
When contacted, Arshad Tabrez, the newly appointed chairman of custom appellate tribunals, said that his appointment was made in accordance with the law.He said the SC detailed judgment would not affect his appointment.
Tabrez said the corruption reference of Mr Zardari had been a closed chapter and his appointment had nothing to do with it.