Here is a news item, a video clip, and three editorial by Najam Sethi, Latif Chaudhry and Abbas Ather.
Pakistan’s top court wants NRO revalidated by parliament
Web posted at: 10/2/2009 2:38:40
Source ::: Internews
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top court has made it mandatory for the government to get the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), the law instituted by former military ruler that granted current President Asif Ali Zardari and his close aides amnesty against a slew of corruption charges, and all other ordinances revalidated by parliament within the timeframe given by it.
The Supreme Court has mandated the step to prevent all cases, including those against Zardari, from being revived automatically or else face the prospects of a trial for corruption.
The NRO was issued by Musharraf in 2007 as part of a power-sharing deal with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto that allowed more than decade-old corruption cases against her and the current president to be quashed.
In the detailed judgment of its July 31 short order, the apex court said all corruption and criminal cases in which benefit was given under the NRO after February 5, 2008 — the date the NRO legally expired — would stand automatically, reopened if parliament fails to validate it retrospectively.
The apex court did not agree with the perception that the benefits drawn from the NRO are past and closed transactions.
It instead judged: “Under Article 89 of the Constitution, an ordinance issued by the president if not so laid before the National Assembly (Lower House), or both Houses of Parliament, stands repealed on expiry of four months from its promulgation.” Under this judgment, the NRO stands invalid since February 5, 2008, when it completed its 120-day constitutional life.
Editorial: The NRO revisited
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has made public the full text of the judgement on the legality or otherwise of the imposition of martial law and dismissal of the apex court on November 3, 2007. A short order of the judgement announced on July 31, 2009 had already led to a train of events in line with the verdict reached by the honourable court, including the departure of General Pervez Musharraf (Retd) from the country and a political furore over his possible indictment for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.
Nothing is more politicised in Pakistan than the actions of General Musharraf starting early 2007 when he first tried to get rid of the chief justice of the apex court. All the mistakes he had made in the past, including the ouster of Pakistan’s two mainstream parties, the PPP and the PMLN, from national politics, returned to haunt him. Politicisation occurred on familiar lines: he had been allowed to rule by the Supreme Court after he overthrew the government of Mr Nawaz Sharif in 1999, and this action was debated between the “purist” and the “pragmatic” in Pakistan.
The judgement is not a new verdict but the detail of the short order of July 31. The most important reaction to it — the demand for the indictment of General Musharraf for treason under Article 6 — has already been put to rest by politics, and one can’t say what the honourable Court can do about it. The ruling coalition could have begun the indictment proceedings but it did not because, according to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, it feared losing its majority in the National Assembly. For its own survival, therefore, it asked the opposition to obtain a “consensus” in parliament for the indictment. One can only call this a political reaction.
Even more politics has surfaced on the question of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) because of the 2008 general elections in the country and the coming to power of the party that will be affected from the undoing of the NRO. The Supreme Court in its short order had indicated a way out: take the ordinance to parliament and get it passed as an act and thus convert the “political” relief into “legal” practise. Because the full judgement was still awaited, the PPP and its partners in coalition had floated differing interpretations about the nature of the NRO.
Everyone from retired judges and the lawyers’ community has been divided over whether the NRO is a one-time device exonerating certain persons under trial for corruption which cannot be rescinded because it has already become void. Some people likened the absolution granted to the affectees to the remissions granted on the National Day to prisoners which once handed down are not taken back. The political aspect of the issue was highlighted when the mainstream PPP and the PMLN went through a process of reconciliation and confessed to “victimisation” behind the cases finally erased by the NRO.
The PPP coalition had privately pleaded the difficulties of bringing the NRO to parliament during a period of intense political polarisation in the glare of a highly sensitised media. Surrounded by rumours of mid-term elections, it sought to ignore the growing controversy over the NRO. But it appears now that it will have to make the big decision. The Law Ministry has reportedly “advised the government to table all 37 ordinances, including the NRO, in the National Assembly’s forthcoming session”. The legal opinion that favoured rescinding the NRO ab initio, and opposed the opinion that the NRO was a one-time device that had now become void, is sure to get more airing in the media, now that the full judgement has tackled the issue in detail.
The indictment of General Musharraf has been undermined by political realities and seriously hurt the “assumption” of sovereignty of municipal law. But the truth is that developments of this kind take place in all states, but more often in weak third world states. Pakistan may see more difficulties ahead if legal judgements pertaining to the economy made at the highest judicial level clash with the “conditionalities” of the IMF. National politics is also about to experience another upheaval as “sovereignty” is pleaded by opponents of the Kerry-Lugar legislation. The NRO belongs in that politicised category. It is unfortunate that instead of moving towards stabilisation of polity we are headed in the opposite direction. (Daily Times, 2 October 2009)
Kaheen pe nigahen, kaheen pe nishana