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Judges pardon Altaf after unconditional apology

January 08, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 7: MQM chief Altaf Hussain must have heaved a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court accepted on Monday his apology in a contempt of court case over the adverse remarks he had made against the judiciary.

“I have just filed an unconditional apology on behalf of Altaf Hussain,” said Senator Dr Farogh Naseem, the counsel for the MQM chief. This surprised everyone, including senior MQM leaders, present in the packed Courtroom No 1 presided over by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

A three-judge bench had on Dec 14 ordered the MQM chief to appear before it in person and explain why he should not be charged with contempt for “his contemptuous assertions against the judiciary”.

In a telephonic address from London to a gathering in Karachi on Dec 2, Mr Hussain had criticised the judiciary and said that judges of the Supreme Court should apologise for their remarks about delimitation of Karachi’s constituencies or face consequences.

When the court took up the matter, no-one, not even senior MQM leaders, were expecting that the counsel would submit at the outset an appropriately written apology and that Mr Hussain would be pardoned and the contempt notice against him would be discharged at the first hearing of the case.

In his apology, the MQM chief not only withdrew the remarks he had made, he also made a commitment not to repeat the same in future and to uphold the majesty and dignity of the judiciary at all cost. “It is a good gesture and we appreciate it. We have all the respect for him (Altaf Hussain) as he has respected the court,” the chief justice observed.

“He is the first-ever politician who has tendered the unconditional apology. Before that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had appeared before the apex court in November 1997, but he never offered an unconditional apology. Instead, he used the word ‘sorry’ which was not accepted by the court headed by then Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. This led to storming of the Supreme Court by workers and supporters of the PML-N chief,” senior lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain recalled while talking to Dawn.

It appeared to be a wise decision taken by the MQM leadership, he said, adding that being a pragmatic political party, the MQM wanted to concentrate on politics, instead of being dragged into litigation.

Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by the apex court on June 19 last year for committing contempt of court.

“The MQM is in the habit of advancing pleasant surprises,” its convener Dr Farooq Sattar said after the hearing. He expressed the hope that the ‘political drone’ Mr Hussain intended to launch would also be a ‘pleasant surprise’ and a gift to the nation.

He said both the MQM chief and the court had demonstrated grace in the matter, adding that there was no harm in reviewing a statement which had the potential of creating confrontation.

Senator Naseem submitted to the court an original duly-executed power of attorney on behalf of Mr Hussain, along with the unconditional apology, and said it was being filed after completing all legal procedures.

The apology read out by the counsel said Mr Hussain had every intention to hold the institution of the judiciary in high esteem and tendered unconditional apology before the Supreme Court as during his entire life he had been struggling for the majesty of the judiciary.

The MQM chief also withdrew all the adverse remarks he had made against the judiciary in his address to workers of his party on Dec 2 and assured the court that these would not be repeated in future. He said he held every judge of the Supreme Court in high esteem and believed in upholding the dignity of the court.

Mr Hussain threw himself at the mercy of the court and requested it to discharge the notice issued to him for the apology he had made from the bottom of his heart.

RAUF’S LETTER: The court expressed its dismay over a letter written to the chief justice by MPA Rauf Siddiqui of the MQM in which he had used contemptuous language against the judiciary while expressing resentment over the issuance of contempt notice to Mr Hussain.

“Are you a bigger leader than Altaf Hussain,” the chief justice asked pointing to Mr Siddiqui and said he could not malign the institution of the judiciary.

The MPA immediately offered an unconditional apology which was accepted.

Dr Farooq Sattar also followed suit for obliquely using the word ‘thieves’ for the judges in a recent speech. The court accepted his apology as well.