ISLAMABAD: The government filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Thursday, contending that any decision on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) outside the scope of what the challengers had sought could destabilise the democratic system.
After remaining silent for four days, the government filed the petition through its newly appointed counsel Kamal Azfar to present its view on how the slightest mishandling could have repercussions for the entire system.
‘Pakistan today is poised at the crossroads. One road leads to a truly federal democratic welfare state with a balance of power among an independent judiciary, a duly elected government representing the will of the people and a determined executive which is fighting the war against terrorism and poverty,’ said the 12-page petition.
The second road leads to destabilisation of the rule of law, it said. ‘The people of Pakistan await your verdict,’ the petition contended, stressing that certain issues had been raised for the first time during the hearing which were not part of the petitions or the prayer and, therefore, contrary to the settled law enunciated by the court that arguments be confined to legal issues.
Acting Attorney General Shah Khawar repeated the government’s stance that it was not defending the NRO ‘from its inception till end’.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry made it clear that the court was also a supporter of the system. ‘We are telling everyone loud and clear that we are not going to derail the system.’
‘We had to hear many things after our July 31 judgment in which we supported the system,’ the chief justice said. ‘We would not be transgressing from the job assigned to us.’
Advocate Ibrahim Satti, representing Fazal Ahmed Jat, an officer of the Federal Investigation Agency facing a NAB reference, was the only counsel who supported the NRO because, he contended, it was not a bad law and its benefit should also be extended to his client.
‘If the ordinance is declared valid by this court and its benefit is extended even to a single person then my client is also entitled,’ he argued, saying it was a valid piece of legislation and did not impinge on any fundamental right.
He said every effort should be made to save the law instead of destroying it, an observation made by the court in numerous judgments.
The atmosphere became tense when the counsel, on a query by Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed, said the bench was hearing one-sided arguments against the NRO and his endeavour would be to change ‘what mind has been made up by the court’.
‘Where is the fault of ours if the government is not defending the NRO,’ Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday observed.
The chief justice clarified that the bench had not made up its mind and he still had no idea about the fate of the ordinance.
‘This is not the way to reply. I am a down-to-earth man and am not bothered about my judgeship,’ Justice Ijaz observed. He said he had also said so while leaving the office on Nov 2, 2007, (a day before all the judges were sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf).
‘God Almighty will save me and I am even ready now to quit the bench,’ he said.
‘I will withdraw my petition if the lordship is offended,’ Advocate Satti said.
Both apologised to each other and Justice Ijaz said he would be the last person to have malice against anyone.
ISLAMABAD: The petitions challenging the NRO will be decided in line with the provisions of the constitution and the law, but the system will not be allowed to derail, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said on Thursday. Heading a 17-member larger bench of the Supreme Court hearing challenges against the legality of the NRO, the chief justice also praised the government for opposing the 17th Amendment. But at the same time, he said the law and ethics could not be separated. He said under the principle of distribution of powers, the NRO was forwarded to parliament. Concluding his arguments, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada – representing one of the petitioners, Dr Mubashar Hasan – said that the rights of Pakistanis had been violated through the NRO, and the document, therefore, deserved to be declared void ab initio. He said the SC – in its July 31 verdict against the developments of November 3, 2007 – has already set aside amendment to Article 270AAA of the constitution, and it would now have to decide whether the NRO was ever a valid law. masood rehman