ISLAMABAD: Justice Javed Iqbal of the Supreme Court on Wednesday made a conditional acceptance of heading the commission to investigate the May 2 US operation in Abbottabad, but one member excused himself from serving on the body, signalling a possible snag in the process.
The five-man commission was named by the government on Tuesday in response to the parliament’s call to probe the US military incursion to kill Osama bin Laden.
Announced after a two-hour meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the commission has to be headed by Justice Javed Iqbal. Other members are: Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmad, Abbas Khan, a former inspector general of police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and former ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.
But Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim told Dawn that he had written a letter to the prime minister to inform him that he could not serve in the commission, although he was grateful to the prime minister for suggesting his name as member of the commission.
On the other hand, Justice Javed Iqbal told reporters on Wednesday that he considered it a national duty and would accept the responsibility to head the body because it would be a historical commission, but at the same time he said the consent of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry for the nomination had to be kept in view.
Justice Iqbal was referring to objections raised by Supreme Court Bar Association’s president Asma Jehangir questioning the manner of appointment, which she termed contrary to the established principles of law.
Direct appointments made by the executive of sitting judges to any commission without taking the chief justice into confidence amounted to undermining the independence of the judiciary, Asma Jehangir said.
In the past the practice had been to request the chief justice to nominate a judge of that court to be appointed on any tribunal, commission of forum outside of the traditional court work.
This is also in line with the spirit of the Constitution and it is a critical safeguard against interference of the executive in the independent working of the courts, Ms Jehangir said, adding that a violation of such traditions would erode judicial independence.
The SCBA has the highest regard for Justice Javed Iqbal, but cannot allow appointments of sitting judges to be directly made by the executive without going through the chief justice, she observed.
In a one-page letter, Mr Ebrahim stated that he had learnt through newspapers and television that he had been appointed as member of the commission.
According to the joint parliamentary resolution, the modalities and the composition of the commission had to be finalised after consultations between the Leader of the House (the prime minister) and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the letter pointed out.
But, Mr Ebrahim went on to say that apparently no consultation took place between the two functionaries as well as the civil society and the SCBA have expressed serious reservation on the composition of the commission. “In such circumstances, though I am deeply grateful, I regret that I am unable to serve in the aforesaid commission,” the letter concluded.