PBC calls for law minister's removal over controversy surrounding former AG's remarks

Updated February 22, 2020

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Law Minister Farogh Naseem had denied having prior knowledge about the former attorney general's intention to make those remarks. — DawnNewsTv
Law Minister Farogh Naseem had denied having prior knowledge about the former attorney general's intention to make those remarks. — DawnNewsTv

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Saturday urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to "expel" Law Minister Farogh Naseem from the federal cabinet in the "larger national interest" after the controversy over remarks by former attorney general Anwar Mansoor Khan against Supreme Court judges.

Khan had resigned as attorney general on Thursday at the PBC's demand for leveling allegations against some members of the Supreme Court bench hearing petitions challenging the filing of a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

Following his resignation, Khan had said the government knew about the remarks he was going to make in the SC that eventually cost him his job as the country's top law officer.

On the other hand, Naseem had denied having prior knowledge about the former attorney general's intention to make those remarks.

In a statement, PBC Vice Chairman Abid Saqi said: "Submitting to the demand of the PBC and the legal fraternity, Khan's decision to resign [...], withdraw his controversial and uncalled for statement made on Feb 18 during the hearing of Justice Isa's case [...], and tendering an apology to the apex court, are welcome and appreciable steps."

The PBC statement maintained that after statements made by the former attorney general in the media explaining that the government was fully aware of his remarks is "gravely alarming and reflects the nefarious designs of the government to bow down the judiciary".

The PBC also called for a probe against the law minister by a judicial commission, calling Naseem to be the "mastermind of a conspiracy against the judiciary".

"Needless to add that his past amply reflects that instead of believing in the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, democracy and civil authority through democratic process, he always takes pride to support and serve the undemocratic forces in power," the statement read.

"As the role, conduct and activities of the law minister, aimed at undermining the independence of the judiciary and continuity of democratic process of government as per the Constitution, are against the national interest and thus are earning a bad name for the incumbent government," the statement added.

Khan insists govt was aware

Speaking to DawnNewsTV's Newseye, Khan after his resignation as AGP had said: "Everyone knew what I was talking about and everyone knew what statements I would make. So to now make the assertion that I was speaking on my own would be incorrect."

When asked if it was an independent decision to use the information in court, the attorney general had admitted that it was his discretion to share that information.

Speaking on GeoTV's Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada kay Sath, Nasim had said: "This is a lie. We did not have any knowledge about what he was going to say [...] It was his own argument and he said it on his own. The government has nothing to do with anything he said and we did not know about it either. You tell me; if the government really knew what he was about to say, would we have let him say it?"

Naseem, when asked if he spoke to the attorney general after the remarks were made, had said: "When a lawyer is making his arguments in a court, they do so without consulting others. We could not interrupt him and so when we heard it, we were shocked and could not understand what he was saying.

"The bench cross questioned him extensively and he withdrew his statement. And by the way, he withdrew the statement himself. We gave him no such instructions. And remember, I was not sitting there as the law minister, I was sitting there in my personal capacity," Naseem had added.

Speaking to ARY News in the show Powerplay, Khan had contradicted Naseem’s statement and had said: “They were all present and were aware of everything. And when I gave that statement, they appreciated me for it. And later when we came out, both of them [Naseem and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar] came to my room and nothing was said. They did not say that I should have not said what I said.”

He had further said that “discussions were held” with both Naseem and Akbar before the statements were made in court. Khan, however, admitted that he had never spoken to Prime Minister Imran Khan about the matter.

When asked by the show’s host if he was consulted during the investigation of the reference against Justice Isa or when “a private firm was hired to spy on the Justice’s family”, Khan had said:

“No. In fact, I did not know about it at all. I was unaware of what happened, when it happened or what did not happen. I only received the final draft of the reference and all they asked me was whether I would pursue the case in front of Supreme Judicial Council and I responded to them by saying that it was my duty to proceed with the matter as Attorney General for Pakistan.”

To clarify, the show’s host had asked Khan: “Are you saying that the attorney general was not consulted regarding the investigations and the hiring of private investigators? Was your legal counsel not sought?"

To this, Khan had said: “I was not consulted at any stage. I was only given the final draft and was asked if I would proceed with the case and I said yes because it was my job as attorney general.”

Khan had also contradicted claims from the law ministry that it had asked for his resignation.

“They [the ministry] should come clean about what I said to them or what they said to me when I met them [after making the statements in court],” Khan had added.