ISLAMABAD: Proceedings in the Panamagate case, which could possibly lead to the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ended on Friday almost with a whimper when the Supreme Court said that arguments from both sides would commence afresh when the hearing resumes in January.
Earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) informed the court about its stance on the latter’s proposal of constituting a commission to conduct an inquiry into the allegations against the prime minister.
Naeem Bokhari, representing the opposition PTI, told the court that not only would the party oppose the formation of the inquiry commission but it would also boycott its proceedings.
PTI to boycott proceedings if inquiry commission is formed; hearing adjourned to first week of January
“We do not accept the concept of commission and if it is formed then we will boycott its proceedings,” Mr Bokhari said after Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who was heading the five-judge bench, asked him to advance his party’s stance.
Editorial: Panama commission
During the hearing on Dec 7, the court had asked the parties to inform it about their views on the formation of the commission.
On Friday, the court had to adjourn the proceedings to the first week of January because the chief justice is reaching superannuation on Dec 30 and will not hold court after Dec 15 when a farewell full court reference will be held for him.
And with only two working days left before Dec 15, it is not possible for the court to complete the proceedings and deliver a judgement in such a short span of time.
However before adjourning the hearing, the chief justice in the order said that “these matters shall not be treated as part heard”, meaning the arguments from both sides would commence afresh when the proceeding resumes.
It is most likely that Justice Asif Saeed Khosa may preside over the proceedings after Justice Jamali has laid down his robes since Chief Justice-designate Mian Saqib Nisar is unlikely to be part of the bench though a member would be needed to complete the five-judge bench.
Though the order was received by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ranks with jubilation as many were seen giving each other self-congratulatory high fives, a senior counsel on condition of anonymity explained that the delay would go against the ruling party since PTI chief Imran Khan would continue hammering its leaders on corruption.
“I believe the delay was necessary in the circumstances but, regretfully, it also reflects the failure of our political forces to arrive at a fair and just solution [of] this issue of national importance,” commented former Supreme Court Bar Association president Ali Zafar after the hearing.
Former additional attorney general Tariq Khokhar said it would have been a correct course to appoint a commission since the Supreme Court would have then extracted itself from uncharted waters since in his view the apex court had no jurisdiction in the case and the same cannot be bestowed upon it by any of the parties.
When Naeem Bokhari was invited by the court to present his party’s stance, he started by quoting from a book Testaments of Faith, authored by A.K. Brohi, in which the prominent lawyer wrote: “Man lives in the womb of times but history judges us all.”
Mr Bokhari then recalled that to-date the Pakistan Peoples Party held the hanging of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a judicial assassination. Former chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah in his dissenting note against the restoration of Nawaz Sharif’s first government had also held that two prime ministers from Sindh had been sacrificed but when it came to Punjab the trend changed, he added.
“We believe that we have made out our case but if the Supreme Court comes to the conclusion that we have not, so be it,” Mr Bokhari emphasised.
“I am disappointed with the reply,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed in his prompt response.
Not surprisingly, the prime minister’s counsel Salman Aslam Butt assured the court that they would follow whatever decision the court reached but reiterated that nothing had been brought on record, directly or indirectly, against the prime minister.
Senior counsel Akram Sheikh — representing the three children of the prime minister Maryam, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz — said the respondents would stand to the court’s order although they were of the strong view that this case should be rejected as no case had been made out.
He deplored that the court proceedings had been turned into a media trial and there had been a lot of scandalisation against the prime minister who had extended maximum cooperation but being the chief executive he also deserved to be respected in return.
Sheikh Rashid’s view
Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid suggested that the court should seek assistance from the registrar of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists but the chief justice explained that when the court invoked its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which was not an adversarial litigation, then there was heavy responsibility on its shoulders.
Can the court sentence someone on mere allegations that where the money came from and where it was spent, the chief justice said, adding they had proposed the formation of the commission so that in future no one can make a complaint that he was not given full opportunity to prove his case.
The court appreciated that full trust had been reposed in it but said it was bound by law which it had to follow.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa highlighted the practical difficulty after the retirement of the chief justice alongside reminding that winter vacation would begin after Dec 15 and while the judges would continue to work they would be doing so in their hometowns. Therefore it would be better to adjourn the proceedings to the first week of January.
Justice Amir Hani Muslim said that another important case had to be decided by Dec 14.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2016