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The Supreme Court of Pakistan – File photo by Alia Chughtai/
The Supreme Court of Pakistan – File photo by Alia Chughtai/

ISLAMABAD: Apparently a deadlock on the draft of a letter to be sent to the Swiss authorities in the NRO implementation case compelled the Supreme Court on Wednesday to set Oct 5 as the date on which the government either has to finalise the letter or face contempt proceedings.

“We expect that no further delay shall be caused in the matter and any further delay may impinge upon the bona fide of the federal government prompting us to proceed with contempt proceedings forthwith,” warned an order dictated by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa after the proceedings.

Justice Khosa is heading a five-judge bench hearing the NRO implementation case in which a show-cause notice had been issued to Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf on contempt charges to explain why he had failed to write the letter to the Swiss authorities. The prime minister had authorised Law Minister Farooq H. Naek to look into the matter and send a consensus letter. At the request of the law minister on Wednesday, the judges retired to their chambers for discussion and then summoned the law minister, who went to the chambers along with advocate Waseem Sajjad.

But before putting off the hearing, the court made it clear that it should be treated by the government as the last. The letter would have to be sent to the attorney general of Geneva (Switzerland) by the government for reviving $60 million graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Expressing displeasure, the court told the law minister that it had adjourned the proceedings to Wednesday because certain aspects of the draft did not meet the requirement of paragraph 178 of the NRO judgment. As a result the minister had sought adjournment to make an effort to remove the deficiencies, it said.

The court noted that the minister had produced a revised draft and that he was again requesting for a hearing in camera on the plea that sensitivity of the matter made a hearing in open court inadvisable.

Before retiring to the chambers, Justice Ejaz Afzal objected to the minister’s request for the in-camera session and said discussions in open court would ensure transparency.

Justice Khosa also tried to explain why the court had chosen to go to the chambers on Tuesday and said it was difficult to discuss certain things in open court.

The law minister was of the opinion that the matter at hand was sensitive and had been lingering for quite some time. It would be in the interest of justice that he be granted audience in the chambers so that the matter was resolved once and for all, he said.

Mr Naek assured the court that the draft would be further improved to meet the requirement of paragraph 178 and asked for adjournment till Oct 5.

Justice Ejaz Afzal reminded the minister that the judges had already spoken their mind on Tuesday and asked for some additions to the draft.

Justice Khosa said the court would go through the revised draft to see what sensitivities were involved in it.

At this the law minister again presented a sealed white envelope which the judges read again before retiring to their chambers.

They said the court was left with no choice but to grant the minister the audience.

Justice Ejaz Afzal said the modalities should be discussed in the open court. “Will it not be better to do things in a transparent manner?” he asked.

Later talking to reporters, the law minister said since he was not the final authority on the subject, he needed to consult the prime minister and that was why he had requested the court for more time.

“They (judges) were very gracious and kind and gave me time till Oct 5 for consultation and advice which I may need and then complete the letter and bring it so that this matter can end,” he said.

Mr Naek dismissed suggestion of any threat and said there was no bone of contention and all their (judges) observations would be taken into consideration. “You will see this will end peacefully because implementation of the court’s verdict is everyone’s duty.”