SC to resume NRO hearing

Published February 27, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Feb 26: The Supreme Court will resume hearing on Wednesday on identical challenges against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) 2007 promulgated by President Pervez Musharraf on the demand of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto to provide amnesty to holders of public office charged in different corruption cases between 1986 and 1999.

A five-member bench comprising Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar, Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan and Justice Chaudhry Ejaz Yousaf will take up five identical petitions against the NRO.

The NRO was promulgated on Oct 5 to give indemnity to Ms Bhutto in all cases registered against her by the Nawaz Sharif government.

At the last hearing on Feb 6, the government had told the court that the NRO was protected under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO). “Ordinarily the life of an ordinance is only four months but under Article 5(1)(2) of the Nov 3, 2007 PCO, the NRO was protected,” Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum had argued.

The petitions challenging the ordinance were filed by Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan, Tariq Assad and Dr Mubashar Hasan under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

A pre-PCO bench comprising deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi and Mian Shakirullah Jan had also heard the matter on Oct 12, 2007, and served notices on Attorney General Malik Qayyum, the National Accountability Bureau and the federal and provincial governments.

Though the bench had declined to stay the operation of the NRO, saying that ordinarily portions of the law were never suspended, it had made it clear that any action and benefit drawn or intended to be drawn by any of the public office holder should be subject to the decision on the petitions.

The petitioners had contended that the ordinance was against all norms of decency, rather a mockery of truth and reconciliation, and that under Article 45 of the Constitution, the president could only pardon or remit a sentence awarded by a court but he had no authority to suspend or give indemnity on pending cases.

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