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Wasim Sajjad declined to become CJP

September 18, 2006

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LAHORE, Sept 17: Senator and prominent lawyer Wasim Sajjad was offered the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan after the retirement of Sheikh Riaz Ahmed a few years ago, leader of the house in the Senate disclosed on Sunday.

In an interview to a private TV channel, Wasim Sajjad said he had declined the offer because he preferred to remain a lawyer.

A law minister when Muhammad Khan Junejo was the prime minister, Wasim Sajjad said then president Ziaul Haq had dismissed the PML government on May 29, 1988, because of misunderstandings with the leader from Sindhri.

He said Junejo himself had told him that some people had created misunderstandings between the president and the prime minister. The president, he said, was made to believe that the prime minister had ordered tapping of his telephones.

After sacking the Junejo government, Mr Sajjad said, Gen Ziaul felt upset and realized that he had taken a wrong decision.

He said some politicians and agencies might have created differences between the president and the prime minister. Junejo’s decision to order an inquiry into the Ojhri camp explosions had also widened the gulf between the head of state and the head of government, he believed.

Wasim Sajjad denied that he had conveyed a message of then army chief Gen Mirza Aslam to the Supreme Court that it should not restore the Junejo government. He said he had made a statement before the apex court on the subject and was also cross-examined.

He admitted that he had met Gen Beg but the meeting was for a different purpose.

Mr Sajjad, now leader of the house in the Senate, said Gen Beg had called him to say that Gen Zia was being unnecessarily criticized in the Supreme Court and his (Beg’s) ‘reservations’ should be made known to the relevant people.

On this, said Mr Sajjad, he discussed the matter with then law secretary who advised him that the general’s views should be conveyed to the Attorney-General of Pakistan who was in a better position to communicate the message to the quarters concerned. But, he recalled, by that time the apex court had already completed the hearing of the petition against the dismissal of the Junejo government.

Gen Aslam Beg has always claimed that he had sent a message to the Supreme Court that the Junejo government should not be restored as fresh elections were about to be held.

Replying to another question, Mr Sajjad said the PPP chairperson was once willing to support him as president of the country provided he gave her assurances that he would not use certain powers of the head of state.

However, he said, he had refused to compromise on any power of the president and thus the two sides could not reach an agreement.

Answering another question, Senator Wasim Sajjad said Balochistan should be given much more funds than it was entitled to under the Constitution. He said population should not be a consideration for distribution of federal funds as Balochistan was a backward province.

In response to a question, Mr Sajjad said that Mr Moeen Qureshi had been appointed caretaker prime minister in 1993 with the consent of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Ms Benazir Bhutto.

According to him, Justices Muhammad Haleem and Abdul Qadir Sheikh were also considered for the post, but the final decision was taken in favour of Mr Qreshi.

Asked why as Senate chairman he had refused to issue production order for Mr Asif Ali Zardari who had been elected as a member of the upper house, Mr Sajjad said under the law he could not order production of a “senator-elect”.

He said while the chairman had the authority to order that a senator be brought to the house even if he was arrested or was detained, he did not have the same power for a senator-elect.