Government trying to name law officers before AG takes charge

Published February 24, 2020
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan. — DawnNewsTV/File
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Frantic efforts are afoot to fill vacant posts of deputy attorney generals (DAGs) and standing counsel in different cities of the country before the newly appointed Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan takes charge of his assignment.

A source privy to the development told Dawn that a number of lawyers from different cities had been approached by the law division to immediately submit their curriculum vitae (CV) so that suitable among them could be appointed to fill the vacancies.

Usually, such appointments are made by the government in consultation with the attorney general who represents the federal government before the superior judiciary. A number of seats of DAGs and standing counsel are vacant in different cities like two in Karachi, one in Peshawar and a few in Lahore and Quetta. These law officers represent the federal government before provincial high courts.

“Ideally, it would have been better that such posts are filled in consultation with the AG since he represents the government and, therefore, he should enjoy good working relationship having complete confidence in the capability of the officers working directly under him,” said a senior lawyer, adding that such a move also suggested attempts being made to oblige the legal fraternity by offering them lucrative posts.

Several seats of deputy attorney generals, standing counsel vacant in different cities

This also becomes significant in view of the stand taken by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) against the backdrop of the controversial statement made by former attorney general Anwar Mansoor before a 10-judge Supreme Court bench hearing petitions challenging the filing of a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the apex court.

In a strongly worded statement issued last Friday, PBC vice chairman Abid Saqi had demanded that Prime Minister Imran Khan change the law minister. Such a move also has the potential to create bitterness and mistrust between the AG office and the law division, especially when the newly appointed AG Khalid Jawed is considered to be a thorough professional and fiercely independent, he said.

The new AG is expected to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday when it will resume the hearing of the petitions in the reference case against Justice Isa despite the fact that a request for a three-week adjournment by Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman has already been filed in the court.

Anwar Mansoor, who has resigned from the AG office and already tendered an apology for his Feb 18 controversial remarks, is also expected to appear before the SC bench when the hearing will commence. He may explain the reasons for his controversial statement to which the apex court took exception and sought evidence or written apology from him.

But when the federal government distanced itself from the statement and took the stance that Anwar Mansoor resigned after he was asked to do so, the former AG in a number of media interactions claimed that the federal government was aware of the controversial statement he had made before the apex court.

The AG office is considered to be the most important and sensitive and unless the attorney general is comfortable with the team he is working with, it was difficult to carry on the responsibilities the AG has to perform. The AG office is always filled by the president but the individual for the post should be qualified to be appointed a judge of the Supreme Court.

According to Article 100 of the Constitution, the attorney general always holds the office during the pleasure of the president and gives advice to the federal government on legal issues and performs other duties of a legal character as may be referred or assigned to him by the government. The attorney general is principal law officer of the federation and his office represents, defends and protects the interest of the federal government.

The importance of the office can be gauged from the fact that the attorney general also enjoys the right of audience before the two houses of parliament as well as before all courts and tribunals in the country. The attorney general also provides assistance and legal guidance to the federal government in different policy matters whenever sought by the prime minister or the president.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2020

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