ISLAMABAD: Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan failed to convince the Supreme Court with his argument in favour of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the eight-member larger bench of the court dismissed on Friday his appeal against the summoning of the premier in a contempt case.
Now the prime minister will have to appear in the court on Monday for framing of contempt charge against him for not pursuing corruption cases abroad.
“The seven-judge bench order (of summoning the prime minister for framing of contempt charge) has been passed in accordance with the provisions of Section 17(3) of the Contempt of the Court Ordinance, 2003, by following the settled principles of criminal justice, therefore, no interference is called for, consequently the intra-court appeal (ICA) is dismissed,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, heading the bench, announced after hearing the prime minister’s counsel for two days.
“Sorry, Aitzaz,” were the last words of the chief justice as the bench rose. And Aitzaz did look disappointed.
“Our appeal has been dismissed by the Supreme Court and the prime minister will have to appear before the court on Feb 13,” he told reporters waiting outside.
Before rejecting the appeal, the court gave Barrister Ahsan another chance to persuade the prime minister to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases ‘in deference to its order and in the interest of the nation’. “How long will we keep going around in circles,” the chief justice observed.
“The prime minister feels hurt by the kind of observations made without being heard in an earlier order in which he was depicted as not honest,” the barrister said.
“I was expecting that you would give us good news against the backdrop of Thursday’s observations of the court,” Justice Saqib Nisar said.
“Nobody likes to see unrest in the country,” the chief justice said. “Bring the country out of uncertainty,” the court observed, adding that sometimes the nation had to suffer through a momentary folly for generations to come.
Barrister Ahsan simply responded that he did not have any mandate to assure the bench and concluded his arguments by saying the prime minister had no intention of disobeying any order of the court.
“The last part of your statement is very heartening. Kindly tell him to enforce the judgment,” Justice Nisar quipped.
“Is that a directive?” asked Barrister Ahsan. “Please, please no direction,” Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said.
Political and legal minds immediately started dissecting and interpreting the court’s pronouncement.
This case has two facets, one legal and the other political, Advocate Chaudhry Faisal Hussain said while talking to Dawn.
“When the court will ask the prime minister if he pleads guilty for not complying with its directives, the PPP will gain politically. The party’s leadership may use these proceedings to its advantage by gearing up the workers for the general elections. The leadership is willing to lose its prime minister on this issue,” he said.
Whosoever would be the next prime minister, he too would seek time to get acquainted with the situation and by then the Senate elections would be over and the party leadership would have lost interest to cling to the government,” he added.
Senator S.M. Zafar said Mr Gilani would be the first prime minister in the country against whom contempt charges would be framed.
“Contempt cases are always different from ordinary cases and are usually wrapped up after summary proceedings,” he said, adding that he thought the court would give another opportunity to the prime minister to write the letter or face conviction.
“There was no need to file such an appeal because the case was weak,” Advocate Ahmad Raza Qasuri said. He said even if the president pardoned the prime minister in case of punishment, he could not wash away the conviction.