Apex court clears NRO

Published February 28, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Feb 27: The Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated its order of freezing two sections of the National Reconciliation Ordinance 2007, thereby allowing beneficiaries to enjoy the fruit of the ordinance.

The ordinance was promulgated by President Pervez Musharraf in October last year to provide amnesty to public office-holders charged in corruption cases between 1986 and 1999.

A five-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan and Justice Chaudhry Ejaz Yousaf also dismissed three of the five identical petitions moved against the NRO because their counsel were not present to pursue the case.

The court ordered deletion of a paragraph from the order inserted earlier on the directives of a pre-emergency bench headed by deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry preventing the beneficiaries of the ordinance from claiming any protection of a concluded action in any pending cases under sections 6 and 7 of the NRO. The apex court asked the courts concerned to pursue pending cases with them in accordance with the ordinance which now was a law.

On Oct 12, 2007, a bench had described the ordinance as being against the public interest because it gave a blanket cover to people having committed corruption and held that any action and benefit drawn or intended to be drawn by any of the public office-holders would be subjected to the decision of the pending petitions.

Main beneficiaries of the law are the MQM, PML-Q, PML-N and PPP and some former bureaucrats and military officers.

On Wednesday, the court dismissed the petitions filed by PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain and Tariq Asad. Advocates-on-record of Mr Sharif and Qazi Hussain Ahmed told the court that they had no instruction to pursue the case while Tariq Asad was not present.

Former PPP stalwart Dr Mubashar Hasan and retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan pleaded for adjournment till March 14 saying their counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada was abroad for medical reasons and doctors had advised him not to travel for at least a week.

“Since I took part in the passage of the 1973 Constitution, therefore, I intimately know what the national reconciliation means,” Dr Hasan said, adding that these were extraordinary times and the country was in turmoil.

Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum said the matter deserved immediate attention, but it was ironic that none of the counsel was present in the court.

He argued that under the Provisional Constitution Order and the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the Nov 3 emergency case, the NRO was protected and had assumed a permanent character and could be undone only by parliament.

“Ordinarily the life of the ordinance is only four months, but under Article 5(1)(2) of the Nov 3 PCO, the NRO is protected,” he said.

Advocates general of Balochistan, Sindh and the NWFP and the prosecutor general of National Accountability Bureau were present during the hearing.

In their pleas, the petitioners had argued that the president had no authority to suspend or give indemnity on pending cases.

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