NRO! Conviction or What? by Ali Raja

Note:-The acquittal of Jahangir Badar from Illegal Assets Reference has proved to be another blow to the NRO myth. The tag of NRO now must die and “accused” must be the term for those under trial thus following the terms of a fair trial.

To be honest enough it is quite an old joke but they say vine, romance and jokes never die out. It was about a dumb, old villager who went to station master and asked when will the Shalimar express pass, when will the Karachi express pass, when will the Mehran express pass……on and on and on. The annoyed Station Master furiously asks about the destination he intends to travel to. It is then that the villager reveals that his entire intention is to cross the Railway Track. Ever science democracy has come back to Pakistan this good old joke has come back to life and political actors are desperate in calculating schedules of express ways, innocently to achieve a single objective that lies across the track GO DEMOCRACY GO.

National Reconciliation Ordinance famously known as the NRO is one of the most darling track of our beloved establishment and its mouth pieces. A track beyond which they see the fruit of their desires i.e. goodbye democracy. NRO a presidential ordinance issued on the 5th day of October 2007 has been the most widely talked of ordinance in our political history. An ordinance which allotted amnesty to all under trial accused (under political motives) who had not been proven guilty in a period not less than 10 years. This ordinance holds the privilege to be tagged as the blackest law in the history of Pakistan. Blackest Law in country which holds the honor of having golden laws such as the F.C.R, the Hudood Ordinance, the Services Act, The Blasphemy Laws, The 8th and 17th amendment and many more milestones which have contributed towards making the legislature of Pakistan a “golden history”. I will not use my energy on the description or evaluation of this blackest law neither will I quote the Status of Limitation or Time Limit of Judicial Decisions Act across the globe, reason being I neither want to defend a Dictatorial legislation nor do I find it worthy riding a dead horse.

The NRO saga began on 16th day of December 2009 when a Larger Bench of the Supreme Court issued a verdict over the petition regarding the NRO, thus squashing the ordinance. Along with declaring the ordinance void the supreme court declared it “ab initio”, thus surprisingly over ruling all benefits ever claimed under this law, as a consequence of which all trials that were suspended under the ordinance came to life. The Supreme Court specifically mentioned in its verdict that the cases in which the President was under trial must also be revived including the ones in Switzerland. The Supreme Court stepping aside from the petition ordered an action against the then Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum for playing a part in halting the Swiss trial. The Supreme Court also prematurely expressed its reservations on the Federal Government’s willingness to act accordingly as it announced a bench that would look into the implementation of the decision.

The above cited para contains all the clauses of the verdict which lie on the tip of tongue of every individual, analyst and expert of our independent media but very surprisingly our supra mature and aware media missed a part of the verdict and continues to miss it in its discussions. As far as I can make out ignoring this part in a situation when the NRO verdict is the basis of the country’s political future is a criminal professional misconduct. This part of the verdict not only holds a theoretical but a practical importance.

Justice Sardar Raza Khan

It was Honorable Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan who wrote an additional note aside from the verdict. The honorable judge stated that he principally agrees with the verdict and has no reservation over its basic principles but further stated the reasons for his additional note. Along with putting to record his stance over the monitoring of the cases by the Supreme court, bringing to accountability the founder of the ordinance and discrimination of re-initiated trials, he wrote the most important part of his additional note which said “Many Accountability cases were politically motivated, politically indicted, and politically prolonged, obviously as a sword of Damocles. If genuine, why were those dishonestly prolonged and no verdict was obtained against the accused involved.” He further said “Attaining benefit from the NRO is no crime in itself neither does it prove that the beneficiaries are all guilty. The verdict rather provides them a chance to prove their innocence via courts of law.”

Squashing the stance of Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan in totality, the media and the political actors on signals from invisible centers of power have made NRO a conviction in its own. NRO has become the ultimate weapon of character assassination. Keeping the dwarfs of politics aside politicians like Nawaz Sharif have been consistently found asking for resignation from NRO beneficiaries, media also beautifully vocalizes on his tunes, in short NRO is a trade mark of guilt and conviction. This is the respect of judiciary and judicial statements which lie embedded deep inside the hearts of political actors.

Let us now have a look at the attitude of the arrogant PPPP and practicality of the additional note by Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan. Excluding the trials against the President which has a blanket cover under article 248 of the constitution all the rest of Pakistan Peoples Party which had trials revived moved to the courts of law. Federal Ministers, Provincial Ministers, Party Executives or Political Activists all Mehmud and Ayaz stood in a single row. Ministers were seen without protocols and courts were seen proceeding without political pressures. The ultimate wish of certain circles of watching PPPP getting convicted seemed to be close enough but all that glitters is not gold. The reality of these sweet fantasies was quite “not expected”, Acquittal came out of the cupboard instead of Convictions:-

  1. 12th day of March 2010 Salman Farooqi, the General Secretary of the Presidency, a former NRO beneficiary got acquitted in two references related to Textile Quota Corruption thus blowing up the 30 million balloon.
  1. 21st day of March 2010, Agha Siraj Durrani , Sindh’s Minister for Local Governments, a former NRO beneficiary got acquitted from Pakistan-Swedish Institute of Technology Reference thus squashing all charges against him.
  1. 25th day of September 2010 Senator Jahangir Badar Secretary General Pakistan Peoples Party got acquitted in Illegal Assets reference worth 4.7 million as a consequence of which all references have been squashed by the courts of law against him.

Without stating many other names I would salute the additional note of Mr. Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan. Time, trials and courts have proved the fact that NRO is no conviction and each and every beneficiary stands out to be innocent unless proved guilty. If studied, law strictly restricts the bashing of any respected citizen of Pakistan unless proved guilty. It is also against the principal of equality in justice to discriminate one accused from the other. I am not sure about what Mr. Prime Minister had in mind when he asked NRO beneficiaries to voluntarily resign but I am glad than Minister for Information and Broadcasting has strongly rejected the reported news of PM asking for resignations from NRO beneficiary ministers. I would recommend Nawaz Sharif, Political Actors and the Media to study the law they claim to be defenders of. I would ask the Supreme Court to declare the term NRO Beneficiary void and ab initio as well. I would ask the rest to wait for a conviction before asking for resignations.



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