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PPP braces for two momentous days next week

July 20, 2012

kaira-aitzaz-AFP670
PPP leader and Yousuf Raza Gilani’s lawyer in the contempt of court case Aitzaz Ahsan leaves the Supreme Court building along with Qamar Zaman Kaira (top R) and Nayyar Bukhari (L) in Islamabad, Feb 2, 2012. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD, July 19: With the Supreme Court scheduled to take up a number of petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act of 2012 on July 23 and the NRO implementation case on July 25, PPP leaders are busy contemplating their response to the two cases.

Sources close to some senior PPP leaders said a debate was going on in the party over whether to adopt a hard line or follow its policy of going by the book and let the judiciary keep on issuing anti-PPP judgments.

In the recent past the party has held more than one sitting to discuss its future course of action. The latest one was held on Tuesday at the presidency, co-chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

The PPP sources said that while the party hawks wanted a direct confrontation with the judiciary and protests against any future court judgment against the PPP and its leaders both in and outside parliament. But the likes of Senator Raza Rabbani are cautioning the party against any confrontation with the judiciary.

The sources said President Zardari was yet to give his opinion on the issue.

But, according to them, the dominant mood in the party was aggressive and some leaders were not happy that the ouster of Yousuf Raza Gilani was accepted without putting up a fight.

“When everyone of us sitting in the party believes that the courts are not impartial when it comes to the cases involving the PPP and its leaders, there is nothing wrong in protesting against court decisions on the streets,” said a PPP leader.

The Tuesday meeting was informed that there was every possibility the SC would strike down some provisions of the Contempt of Court Act which provided immunity to the president and the prime minister against contempt charges and the right to appeal for a convict or one accused of contempt.

Senior Lawyer Salman Akram Raja told Dawn that if the court chose to strike down some provisions or the whole law the government would have to accept the decision. However, if the court only interpreted it the PPP could take it back to parliament and get its own interpretation passed by amending the law.

He said the PPP government actually wanted to drag its feet on the NRO implementation case “and I believe the government after passing the new law will manage to do so.”

Barrister Zafarullh Khan said if the government and the judiciary had a difference of opinion on interpretation of a law, parliament could go for its amendment to explain the way it wanted. However, he said, under the Constitution it was only the SC which had the right to interpret a law.

According to a senior PPP office-bearer, by passing the new law on contempt of court, the government had sent its message loud and clear that it did not want the apex court to touch the president and prime minister on contempt charges. Now, he said, the ball was in the SC court and let the judges decide on the law.

The PPP sources said that in the first place the party believed this time the court would not send the new prime minister packing and give him time. Otherwise, he said, “this time party’s response will be different”.

Talking to reporters, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said the contempt of court cases could not add to the respect and dignity of the judiciary.

He argued that whenever judges would issue wrong decisions they would be ridiculed because the judiciary was not above the law.

He said the court decisions should be acceptable to both parties.

He said the SC should refer the matter to parliament with its interpretation and parliament would accept its positive recommendations.

He warned that there would be a crisis in the country if the court annulled the Contempt of Court Act.

Mr Qadir said there should be harmony among institutions for smooth functioning of the system.

The PPP sources said the government intended to invoke the new law in its response to the SC on the NRO implementation case.