Watch Abbas Ather’s conversation with Asma Jahangir in today’s Column Kaar (16 October 2010).
At about 8:00 minutes in the above video, Abbas Ather reveals without naming that it was a newspaper (Jang Group’s (Geo TV’s) newspaper The News) which had first spread a false rumour about the denotification of the Supreme Court judges on 19 January 2010.
I tried to locate that news item via Google. And lo and behold. There is actually a news story in The News on that date.
But there is a small problem here. The story has been removed from The News website; most probably very recently.
Why? The reason is simple. The Supreme Court has ordered an inquiry to investigate those who created and disseminated the rumour; the court has asked Geo TV / Jang Group to produce their record as a part of that inquiry.
By removing a culpable piece of evidence, Geo TV / Jang Group are trying to play smart. Ain’t they?
However, we have been able to retrieve the removed story (which was reported by none other than the Ansar Abbasi / Muhammad Saleh Zaafir duo) from another website (which thankfully copy-pasted this report from The News):
No plan to withdraw judges’ restoration notification
Tuesday January 19, 2010 (1035 PST)
ISLAMABAD: There is no plan to withdraw the notification issued on March 17, 2009 for the restoration of deposed judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said an important minister.
He was responding to a question of this correspondent about reports that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led coalition government was planning to technically knock out the judiciary in a ‘democratic way’.
But according to sources, the tug of war between the Pakistan People’s Party and the judicial echelon is not yet over. The PPP-led coalition government is planning to deal with the judiciary in a ‘democratic way’. The defiance strategy focuses on the use of constitutional means to make the judiciary toothless and powerless, said a highly reliable source.
However, the important minister who was initially reluctant to respond saying he was not the relevant person to talk on this issue, agreed to express his opinion after told that no other official was available. He said such reports were totally false and whatever steps the government would take would be in accordance with the law and Constitution. He said a propaganda campaign was being launched against the government to mislead the people. He said there may be such a proposal from any quarters, but the government had never committed violation of the Constitution. The government has not done anything which may offend the judiciary, he said, adding every proposal is thoroughly examined by the Presidency and the Prime Minister House and there is no chance that such a proposal can find any favourable response there.
But according to sources, President Asif Ali Zardari has made the PPP to use democracy and constitutionalism as its weapons to fight back. Initially, resilient Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was also given a go-ahead signal on December 19, 2009 to make his allegiance to the president public after his meeting with Zardari. On the same day, the meeting of the PPP Central Executive Committee ended with a defiant mood. Heated speeches in the meeting considered SC decision “as part of a conspiracy”, informed sources said. The source also revealed that the appointment of Dr Babar Awan as law minister is part of the strategy to fight back judiciary with an executive push. Rescinding government notification and introducing a new ordinance protecting NAB beneficiaries are the options to be used by in coming days to put pressure on the Supreme Court.
Under the same procedural defiance strategy, another highly-placed source said the government intends to withdraw the notification of March 17, 2009 through which the deposed judges of the superior judiciary were restored to the November 2, 2007 position.
The source disclosed that by withdrawing the notification of March 17, 2009, the Presidency believes that the office of the chief justice will fall vacant, so neither any bench could be constituted nor could be any stay order issued until the appointment of a new chief justice.
On March 17, 2009, the Law Ministry had issued two separate notifications and Law Secretary Justice Agha Rafiq had read out the notifications in a press conference.
The first notification stated:
“Whereas the prime minister of Pakistan was pleased to announce on 16th day of March, 2009 that the deposed judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, including Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice of Pakistan, shall be restored to the position they were holding immediately before 3rd day of November, 2007.
“Now therefore, the president of Pakistan is pleased to restore Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice of Pakistan to the position he was holding immediately before 3rd day of November, 2007. Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will assume office of chief justice of Pakistan on 22nd March, 2009, after retirement of Mr Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Chief Justice of Pakistan on 21st March, 2009.”
The second notification announced on same day stated:-
“The prime minister of Pakistan was pleased to announce on 16th day of March, 2009 that the deposed judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, including Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan, shall be restored to the position they were holding immediately before 3rd day of November, 2007:
“Supreme Court of Pakistan: 1. Mr Justice Javed Iqbal; 2. Mr Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday; 3. Mr Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed; 4. Mr Justice Ch Ijaz Ahmad.
“Lahore High Court: 1. Mr Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif; 2. Mr Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry; 3. Mr Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman.
“High Court of Sindh: 1. Mr Justice Mushir Alam; 2. Mr Justice Maqbool Baqar. “Peshawar High Court: 1. Mr Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan.
“Now, therefore, the President of Pakistan is pleased to restore the above mentioned deposed judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to the position they were holding immediately before 3rd day of November, 2007. These judges will assume their office with immediate effect.”
The source has confided that Law Ministry will be playing a pivotal role in the new strategy. Hence, it was important to replace Afzal Sindhu with Dr Babar Awan as law minister. The NAB beneficiaries in the government ganged together in ousting veteran PPP leader Afzal Sindhu. “Muhammad Afzal Sindhu, a veteran PPP leader having the distinction of being a member of the party’s Central Executive Committee during the days of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is a respected lawyer and constitutional philosopher and was unlikely to agree to being part of this dirty game plan, hence he was sent to the Ministry of Railways last month,” the sources pointed out.
Secondly, under the same strategy the government will not take any step for reopening of cases in the Swiss court as was directed by the Supreme Court in its short order declared the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) void ab initio,” pointed out the source.
According to the source, had the government been serious in implementation of the Supreme Court, there was no need to wait for the detail judgment.
Thirdly, he said, the government has not appointed Justice (Retd) Khalilur Rehman Ramday as ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court as recommended by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Advice of the chief justice was shelved by Law Ministry.
The recent spree of aggressive statements by Mr Zardari and PPP leadership is in a wake of being not sure about how army may react if SC throws ‘NAB beneficiaries’ out in a bid to make Pakistan corruption free and ensure that corruption is rooted out of society.
They are confident that their aggressive posture will make the military to refuse abiding by the Supreme Court order in case Article 190 of the Constitution is invoked by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the source elaborated.
It may be recalled that Article 190 has so far been invoked only twice and on both the occasions, the military sided with the executive instead of abiding by the orders of the chief justice. He recalled that when Justice Sajjad Ali Shah had invoked Article 190 as chief judge, the-then chief of army staff Gen Jehangir Karamat had forwarded the court order to the Ministry of Defence for further process and hence the military defied the court order because Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif held the portfolio of the minister for defence at that time.
On the second occasion, a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had ordered the state machinery including the corps and formation commanders of the Army on November 3, 2007 not to abide by any unconstitutional order of Gen Pervez Musharraf. But the Army defied the court order and a new Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) was issued by Musharraf, imposing martial law on the pretext of emergency, which was also described as emergency plus.
The source said that top advisers of the rulers are currently weighing all the available options but majority of them believes that there is no provision in the constitution for the restoration of a chief justice and the executive order through which the judges were restored could be withdrawn anytime.
It is, however, pertinent to recall here that the federal law secretary, while reading out the two notifications of March 17, 2009, had said as all the deposed judges were reinstated to the position of November 2, 2007, they were not required to take fresh oath.