The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) on Wednesday summoned Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry for his "irresponsible" and "double meaning remarks" about the recent transfer of Islamabad's inspector general of police (IGP).
While hearing a case pertaining to IGP Jan Mohammad's transfer, CJP Mian Saqib Nisar criticised Fawad and said the minister should appear before court and offer a "clarification of his statement".
Yesterday, Fawad had declared that the prime minister — the chief executive of the country — had full authority to suspend any police officers who were insubordinate.
The information minister had questioned the point of electing a prime minister if he couldn't even remove an officer over "legitimate complaints". He had added that the government would present its arguments to the Supreme Court and follow the latter's verdict.
However, the chief justice took exception to the information minister's strident tone.
"Fawad Chaudhry gave an irresponsible statement," CJP Mian Saqib Nisar remarked today.
CJP Nisar remarked that Fawad had "talked about the judiciary behind the scenes" and added that he will "look into [the matter]".
CJP Nisar also responded to the information minister's statement — that the prime minister had "executive powers and he will use them" — saying that the government was bound to exercise its powers "responsibly".
"He [Fawad] said that the IGP is bound to receive [phone] calls [from ministers]. Tomorrow, he will say that the chief justice is also bound to receive phone calls," Justice Nisar remarked.
"How can a minister say that an IGP is bound [to entertain ministers]?"
He further said that "those who say that the Supreme Court has no authority should appear before the court".
"The Supreme Court has removed a prime minister because of the powers granted to it under the Constitution."
Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, who is also the brother of the information minister, apologised to the court on Fawad's behalf. However, the CJP turned the apology down and asked Faisal to call his brother to court and clarify his statements.
Further, Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati — who allegedly influenced the transfer of IGP Mohammad — was also summoned to court.
Proceeding to address the matter of IGP Mohammad's transfer, Justice Nisar inquired into the circumstances in which the IGP was transferred.
The attorney general (AG), who was present in court today, said that the process to remove the Islamabad IG was initiated on Sept 1.
"I will not hide anything from the court, I will present the truth," the AG declared. He added that the transfer took place "after consideration", and that he had submitted pictures and video clips of meetings that took place between the IGP and state minister for Interior (ahead of the decision) for the court's consideration.
The secretaries of the interior ministry and the establishment division were also present in court.
Justice Nisar also ordered that clips of Chaudhry and Swati's statements be submitted to the court.
After a brief recess, the information minister appeared before the bench. Addressing him, the chief justice said he had not expected the statement made by Chaudhry, and admonished him for "taunting the court".
Fawad responded saying he had not said "any such thing", adding that he had brought a newspaper (quoting his remarks) with him to court, presumably to demonstrate his innocence.
However, the Chief Justice of Pakistan told the information minister that he himself had heard the latter speak on television.
"You said that 'If the bureaucracy is to rule, what is the need for elections?'," the top judge remarked, reminding the minister it wasn't the bureaucracy, but Chaudhry's government that was doing the ruling.
The information minister responded saying that he agreed fully with the court, but added that there were some problems between the government and the bureaucracy and the government had the authority to transfer officials.
The CJP agreed, saying the government had full prerogative to make transfers, but this approach — doing it without due process — was wrong.
"The IG was transferred for not picking up the phone of one person," he reminded the minister.
Fawad argued saying Azam Swati was no ordinary person, but a federal minister, but the CJP asked if this (calling a police chief) was the job of a federal minister.
"You have come today to fight the case for this federal minister. What contest can there be between a poor man and a federal minister," the top judge remarked, referring to the circumstances in which the controversy had allegedly arisen — the IGP's refusal to act on Swati's complaint that a peasant's buffaloes had ruined plantations on the latter's land.
He asked why Swati had not come to court himself, to which Fawad responded saying that the CJP had asked him to get some documents, and he may have gone to get those.
"I am doing something good for your government," the top judge remarked wryly, adding: "We want only good people to be included in your cabinet."
The information minister, perhaps wary of the implied warning, responded saying Swati was "a decent man", which elicited a smile from the top judge, who said simply that: "an individual is known for his deeds".
The court subsequently postponed the hearing till Friday.
Swati, who had also been summoned by the chief justice, appeared before court after the hearing concluded. Justice Nisar remarked that the minister was "such an important personality that an entire family was persecuted on his orders".
The CJP ordered Swati to submit the details of property owned by him and his family. He also barred the minister from going to the United States.
Last week, IGP Mohammad, a retired lieutenant and a BS-20 officer of the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), was posted out from the force and his services were surrendered to the Establishment Division. He is currently in Malaysia on ex-Pakistan leave to attend a course, and will return on November 5.
Soon after his transfer, local media reported that Mohammad had been transferred because he did not receive Swati's calls. The news was rubbished by the government's Fake News Buster Twitter account, that quoted the Interior Ministry spokesman who termed the news as "baseless".
The reports did catch the attention of the Supreme Court, that suspended the IGP's 'unlawful transfer'.