ISLAMABAD: The chief spokesman for the ruling PPP, Qamar Zaman Kaira, requested superior courts on Friday to stay away from political affairs because it can affect the federation.
In an aggressive tone, which many read as a warning to the judiciary against meddling in political affairs, he said: “If you will interfere in political affairs, people will criticise such decisions.”
Speaking at a function held here on Friday to mark the 46th founding day of the PPP, Mr Kaira referred to the Lahore High Court (LHC) judgment about building Kalabagh dam and said: “Such decisions will not only create further divisions within the federation but also attract criticism.”
The LHC in its ruling on Thursday had directed the federal government to go ahead with the construction of the dam in accordance with the decisions of the Council of Common Interests (CCI). The decision has sparked a debate, pitting supporters and opponents of the dam project against each other.
Without directly referring to a recent judgement of the Supreme Court in which President Asif Ali Zardari was asked to stay away from politics, Mr Kaira said: “We are not judges, generals or bureaucrats that you stop us from politics. Quaid-i-Azam created this country through politics and we have saved it through politics. We will keep on doing this.”
He said the country had always suffered in the absence of politics and politicians.
The apex court in its judgment on Asghar Khan case had barred the president from taking part in active politics. The government has filed a review petition against the part of the judgment related to the president. Otherwise, the PPP leadership had praised the ruling in which the court had confirmed distribution of money by the ISI among politicians before the general election of 1990.
Mr Kaira said it was because of President Zardari that the country had democratic dispensation, alleging that in the past the presidency had been used to hatch conspiracies against democracy.
“Do you want a political president or a conspirator president working against democracy,” he asked Mr Kaira, who is also federal minister for information and broadcasting, said the PPP had always respected judiciary and would continue to do so, but “I humbly request respected judges to work within their domain and let us work in our domain”.
He said the dam was a political issue and should be handled by politicians.
Mr Kaira didn’t stop here. He talked about the Supreme Court decision against former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, recalling that the PPP had accepted the ruling though it was a “wrong decision” that sent an elected prime minister home.
Then he referred to what he called the judicial murder of the PPP’s founder and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and ‘witch-hunting’ of Benazir Bhutto by previous courts.
He also touched upon the ‘memo’ case being heard by the Supreme Court, recalling that when President Zardari went to Dubai in the wake of the 'memogate' scandal, PPP’s detractors said he would never come back but his return proved them wrong.
ANP criticises LHC decision
The Awami National Party (ANP) has also criticised the LHC ruling on the dam and likened it to an attack on the federation.
Talking to reporters, ANP Senator Afrasiab Khattak said the ruling carried the tone of “Takht-i-Lahore,” a phrase coined by political parties opposed to the PML-N to criticise its government in Punjab.
Mr Khattak said since three units of the federation had clearly rejected the much politicised dam project, it should not be talked about.
ANP spokesman Senator Zahid Khan said talking about the dam was an exercise in futility.
“The Constitution of Pakistan confers a pre-eminent position to the CCI to formulate and regulate policies for the federation in relation to a number of subjects, including water and power. A decision of the CCI has obligatory effect unless the same is modified by parliament at the instance of the federal government under Article 154(7) of the Constitution,” said a short order issued by LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial after deciding a set of petitions seeking an order for the government to build the dam in the light of CCI recommendations.
Talking to Dawn, a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court said: “In legal terms there is nothing wrong with the judgment because it has only upheld a decision made by the CCI.”
But, he said, since the controversial project raised political questions, the LHC should have referred the matter to the federal government instead of passing a ruling which had the least possibility of implementation.