AG controversy leaves Justice Isa case in limbo

Updated February 22, 2020

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Khalid Jawed Khan
Khalid Jawed Khan

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday sought three-week postponement of Justice Qazi Faez Isa case as a notification of the new attorney general’s appointment despite being ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan did not see the light of the day while former AG Anwar Mansoor Khan expressed his repent over the controversial statement that he had made before the Supreme Court on Feb 18.

A PM Office announcement earlier in the day said: “The Prime Minister has decided to appoint Mr Khalid Jawed Khan as the new Attorney General.

“The Law Ministry has been directed to move summary for his appointment today (Friday).”

But the lack of enthusiasm or perceived reluctance on part of the relevant authorities in appointing the advocate from Sindh for the top legal office had set alarm bells ringing among the ruling PTI cadres. Already confronted with a number of issues especially at the economic front, the ruling party members believe that the Imran-led government could not afford any misadventure at this crucial juncture when the Supreme Court and legal fraternity had already taken exception to Tuesday’s statement of the former AG.

“I am surprised no notification has been issued despite the fact that the prime minister has issued directions in this regard three times including in the cabinet meeting,” said a senior minister who wished not to be named.

Ex-AG apologises as govt seeks adjournment for three weeks; govt yet to notify Khalid for post despite PM’s directive

The deliberations to appoint Khalid Jawed Khan, known for his independence, had been under way from time to time. The prime minister was quite happy with the choice as he had served in his office during the tenure of the interim government of caretaker prime minister Nasirul Mulk, Mr Khan said. He had chosen to resign only after realising that the PTI government intended to appoint Anwar Mansoor.

The names of senior counsel namely Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Jamal Sukhera, Khalid Jawed Khan, Syed Ali Zafar and Abid Zuberi were making the rounds for quite some time in addition to Naeem Bukhari who had politely turned down the offer earlier.

The ruling party member said the PM’s approach was very clear as he believed there should even be no indication that the executive was hostile towards the judiciary or wanted any confrontation with them.

That was why the prime minister did not pay heed to what Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed conveyed to him after he had been grilled by the judiciary over losses suffered by Pakistan Railways. The prime minister, he explained, wanted an individual who could bridge the distance between the executive and the judiciary and Khalid Jawed was the best choice in this regard.

However, the application moved by the federal government before the Supreme Court to adjourn the hearing of Justice Isa case for three weeks indicated that the government was weighing other options, too, such as Ahmad Jamal Sukhera, he said.

Moved through Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman, the application requested the apex court to adjourn the Justice Isa case hearing, which has been fixed for Feb 24, for three weeks so as to permit the law ministry to appoint a new attorney general for Pakistan who may require time to prepare the case.

This also shows that the government wanted to keep pursuing the matter despite the emerging common perception about the fate of the case especially after the controversial statement.

At the last hearing on Feb 19, a 10-judge full court of the Supreme Court that had taken up a set of challenges to the filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa had ordered the then AG Anwar Mansoor Khan either to produce evidence on the basis of which he made the controversial statement before the court or tender apology.

The hearing was then fixed for Monday next (Feb 24).

Instead Anwar Mansoor tendered his resignation by stating that he quit the high office on the demand of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) though the law ministry later distanced itself from the statement with Law Minister Farogh Naseem coming in public to state that the AG was asked to step down.

On the contrary, Mr Mansoor told the media in the evening that though he withdrew the statement that caused the controversy, the statement he made before the court had been discussed at the government level.

Later, the former AG through a one-page statement assured the Supreme Court that he had the highest regard and respect for the court and could not think of causing any adverse comment as to the honour, honesty and integrity of the apex court.

“The undersigned is sorry and withdraws his statement made on Feb 18 and unconditionally apologizes for having made the same,” the statement concluded.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020