ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court’s recent ruling ordering the registration of an FIR against the CIA’s former boss in Islamabad is the latest in a series of embarrassing verdicts that have been handed down due to poor coordination between the federation’s counsels and government departments.

IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on Thursday ordered Secretariat police to register a case against former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks and his legal adviser, John A. Rizzo.

The order came as the judge disposed of a petition filed by anti-drone activist Karim Khan. A resident of North Waziristan, Khan lost his son Zahinullah and brother Asif Iqbal in a US drone strike on December 31, 2009.


Govt counsel says police officer was caught off-guard, gave wrong answer in court


However, a senior law officer of the federal government told Dawn on Friday that the government did not expect these orders from the IHC and that the judgment had come as a surprise to many government functionaries.

Due to internal pressure, the government will probably not appeal the decision and will have to file a case against Mr Banks and Mr Rizzo in order to ‘complete the formality’, he said.

“But the matter is not likely to proceed much further because there are no eye-witnesses who can testify that the two US officials are directly responsible for launching the drone strikes,” he said.

Eyewitness testimony is an essential requirement in order to secure a conviction in criminal cases.

Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Fazalur Rehman Niazi, who represented the federal government in the matter, said that he had very strong arguments against Karim Khan’s petition.

“There were at least 12 previous judgments that I wanted to submit in court where the superior courts had refrained from assuming jurisdiction in matters pertaining to the tribal areas”, he pointed out.

According to the DAG, under Section 7, Article 247 of the Constitution, matters relating to the tribal areas could not be taken up by superior courts.

The article reads: “Neither the Supreme Court nor a High Court shall exercise any jurisdiction under the constitution in relation to a tribal area, unless [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] by law provides otherwise.”

DAG Niazi claimed that on Thursday, when the judge handed down the order, he ceded the rostrum to the Secretariat station house officer (SHO), who immediately admitted that a drone strike was a cognisable offence.

Hence, the court had no option but to pass an order in the petitioner’s favour.

“Perhaps, the SHO was caught off-guard and, in a state of nervousness, made a sudden statement before the court without realising its consequences.”

The IHC judge, in his order of June 5, wrote, “Police Station Secretariat, Islamabad has put appearance and frankly conceded that from contents of complaint cognisable offences are made out. In this view of the matter, he is directed to proceed in accordance with law.”

In the past, the federal government’s law officers have often written to the Interior Ministry, Finance Ministry and other departments in cases where their officials did not fully cooperate with them.

Former DAG Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri said that relying upon officers from other departments, law officers should personally ensure that relevant records and proper statements are submitted in court.

Under the rules of business, government officials are not allowed to appear before the court without consulting a law officer and every official document has to be placed before the court through the federal government’s counsel, he said.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2014

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