Anwar Mansoor Khan.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
Anwar Mansoor Khan.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan had to tender resignation from the coveted post on Thursday for levelling allegations against some members of the Supreme Court bench hearing petitions challenging the filing of presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

Though Mr Khan claimed that he had decided to quit on his own in compliance with the demand of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the law ministry said he was asked to do so.

Mr Mansoor, however, disagreed with the government stance that he had been asked to tender his resignation.

Talking in the News Eye programme of DawnNews on Thursday night, the former AG said he had withdrawn the statement that had caused the controversy. In reply to a question, he said the statement had been discussed at the government level.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court had categorically asked Mr Khan to apologise or produce evidence on the basis of which he had levelled allegations against the members of the bench without naming anyone. The court had, however, restrained the media from reporting the allegations.

While Anwar Mansoor claims he quit on PBC’s demand, law ministry said he was asked to step down; govt distances itself from his remarks

The resignation came after the federal government distanced itself from Mr Khan’s remarks. The two separate statements issued by the lawyers’ premier bodies — Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association — demanding immediate resignation of Mr Khan as well as an apology further aggravated the situation. Consequently, Mr Khan had to tender his resignation.

In his one-page resignation letter to President Arif Alvi, Anwar Mansoor Khan stated: “I note with profound regret that the Pakistan Bar Council, of which I am the Chairman, has demanded through its Feb 19 press release that I resign forthwith from the Office of the Attorney General of Pakistan.

“Being a life member of Karachi Bar Association, Sindh Bar Association and the Supreme Court Bar Association, and having previously served as the Advocate General Sindh, the Attorney General for Pakistan and a judge of the High Court of Sindh, I stand with my brothers and colleagues at the Bar and I wish to reaffirm my faith in the highest principles of integrity and professional excellence that the Pakistan Bar Council has always stood for.”

Mr Khan concluded: “Accor­dingly I hereby resign from the position of the Attorney General for Pakistan and request to accept it with immediate effect.”

Meanwhile, the federal government, while realising the gravity of the situation, submitted to the Supreme Court a two-page reply through the law ministry, stating that the “oral statement” made by Mr Khan on Feb 18 was “unauthorised, without instructions and knowledge of the federal government and the answering respondents, and totally uncalled for”.

“It is pointed out that the federal government of Pakistan and the answering respondents hold the superior judiciary for Pakistan in the highest respect and esteem. Accordingly, the federal government and the answering respondents dissociate themselves from the statement of the learned attorney general,” said the reply filed by Law and Justice Division Secretary Mohammad Khashih-ur-Rehman.

“The federal government and the answering respondents verily believe in the rule of law, constitutionalism and the independence of judiciary,” it concluded.

Anwar Mansoor Khan was appointed attorney general on Aug 31, 2018 for the second time. He had earlier served in this position during the tenure of the PPP government. He had resigned from the post on April 2, 2010 after reportedly developing differences with Babar Awan, the then law minister.

Mr Khan was commissioned as an officer in the Pakistan Army in 1971 and fought the 1971 war, but resigned in 1973. He became a prisoner of war in 1971.

He was appointed a judge of the Sindh High Court in October 2000, but resigned from the position on Oct 3, 2001, to practice law.

Law ministry’s statement

The law ministry dispelled an impression that Anwar Mansoor Khan had resigned from the post on his own and stated that the “attorney general was asked to resign”.

A spokesperson for the ministry said the “federal government has disassociated itself from the statement of former attorney general”.

The law ministry also submitted a statement to the Supreme Court regarding the attorney general’s unprovoked assertions about the bench hearing the petition filed by Justice Faez Isa challenging the proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council against him.

It may be mentioned that the PBC had a day earlier decided to file a contempt petition against the attorney general and Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem over Mr Khan’s statement against the SC bench.

In June last year, the PBC had issued a show-cause notice to Mr Naseem for his alleged role in the filing of references against Justice Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court. However, the attorney general, being chairman of the PBC, had set aside the notice and sought explanation from the council’s members for issuing it to Mr Naseem.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020