Ahsan Iqbal says PML-N will not accept SC judgment

Claims invisible force trying to pit parliament against judiciary; an eye-opening interview with PML-N spokesman

By Ahmad Noorani

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has officially stated that the judiciary can lose its respect and its role will become controversial if it hears the petitions, challenging the 18th Amendment passed by an overwhelming majority of the elected parliament.

Clearly and openly backtracking from the PML-N’s previous stance of safeguarding the independence of the judiciary, PML-N’s official spokesman Ahsan Iqbal while talking to The News said that on the question of interpretation of the 18th Amendment his party would only accept the decision of parliament.

At one point Ahsan said: “the PML-N will not accept the Supreme Court’s judgment” but subsequently he changed his statement to “the PML-N will only accept the decision of parliament.” “See, what parliament has done is a grand national consensus and the judiciary should respect it,” Ahsan replied at one point while talking to The News.

Ahsan was asked that if the Supreme Court gives a judgment on the interpretation of

some of the controversial clauses of the 18th Amendment would his party accept it wholeheartedly or not. He replied: “the PML-N will only accept the decision of parliament, which has already been delivered in the form of the passage of this amendment in the National Assembly and the Senate. The verdict of parliament will be accepted and respected by all and sundry.”

Ahsan said that the 18th Amendment was not an ordinary amendment but it was a mega national political consensus and was approved by all the political parties with unprecedented harmony. Ahsan went on to say that the 18th Amendment was in fact a new social contract.

On the question regarding the acceptance of the apex court’s judgment Ahsan Iqbal further said: “By dragging the issue of the 18th Amendment into the courts the judiciary will come face to face with all the political forces of the country,” and added: “By indulging in this the judiciary can lose its respect, its role will become controversial and it will be completely isolated.”

Right after saying these words Ahsan immediately declared that the present crisis was being sponsored by invisible forces, which wanted to come to power on the props of others. By crisis Ahsan was referring to the filing of petitions in the Supreme Court and the ongoing national debate on the question of judicial review and apex court’s powers to review or strike down any law or constitutional amendments.

While Ahsan was taking a new line, his party had formally submitted serious and severe objections during the proceedings of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) against the sitting federal law minister and the attorney general in the new proposed judicial commission as its members had declared it against the independence of judiciary.

Ahsan stated that in fact there was a force, which was upset because of the creation of two powerful institutions; a powerful parliament and a powerful and independent judiciary. Without taking the name of the Pakistan Army, Ahsan further said that this force had only one solution to all its miseries and that was to bring these two institutions at the loggerheads.

“Only such a situation could help this force in achieving its objectives,” Ahsan said. Ahsan said that in making the 18th Amendment there was no innovation in the scheme of our Constitution rather it was the implementation of the Charter of Democracy (CoD). He said that mediamen who were now objecting to the 18th Amendment and its judiciary appointment- related clauses should keep this in mind that the CoD was signed in 2006 when there was no sign of any judicial crisis. This historic document remained in the market for more than three years but no one objected to any of the points raised in it.

Ahsan defended the clause relating to final approval of judges appointments recommended by the judicial commission by a parliamentary committee comprising politicians by saying that it would not be an approval but only parliamentary oversight.

He said that some elements in the media were claiming parliamentary oversight was only for judges’ appointment whereas it would be applicable to all constitutional appointments including the chief election commissioner. Ahsan further said that parliamentary oversight was not a unique thing and even in the present on-going process of reform in the Turkish constitution the method of parliamentary oversight was being adopted.

Ahsan was asked that as per the documents available with The News, the PML-N itself had objected that the law minister and the attorney general should not be members and instead the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association should be a member of the judicial commission, then why his party was backtracking from its stance.

Ahsan was of the view that the stance taken in the meetings of the PCCR was the point of view of the party at that time. “Now as the amendment has been passed by parliament so what I am saying right now is the present and final view of my party.”

Ahsan at one stage said that clauses regarding judges’ appointment were later modified only in accordance with the CoD but when asked about the deadlock in case of equal votes in the judicial commission was highlighted by the media he (Ahsan) did not agree.

However, when reminded acknowledgement of this fact had even been admitted in the PML-N’s note of reiteration submitted in the PCCR, Ahsan admitted the fact.

On the question that it was widely believed in concerned circles of Islamabad that the 18th Amendment’s clauses relating to empowering the party chiefs were in fact incorporated after the agreement in a secret meeting of the top two or three leaders of the PPP and the PML-N, Ahsan rejected the allegation saying everything was decided in a committee comprising members from all the political parties.

Asked that vote of a parliamentarian for a constitutional amendment was in fact a vote of his or her conscience so why the parliamentarians had been bound to follow the instructions of the parliamentary party chief, Ahsan admitted that this clause was not right.

He said that this clause was the result of the circumstances faced by the political forces in the nineties and repeated events of floor crossing. Ahsan said that according to his opinion this and some similar clauses were inserted in the Constitution for the time being and these would be removed after a few years, as the country’s political system would achieve some maturity.

On the question why the proceedings of the PCCR were kept highly confidential while the process of legislation or constitution making had always been kept open for public debate during all of its steps, Ahsan said that if the proceedings of the committee had been kept open, the political forces would have never reached any agreement.

When asked if it was such a controversial amendment that not a single clause of the whole amendment was discussed in any house of parliament in detail and members voted only according to the orders of their party’s leadership, Ahsan said that it happened, as the issues were already discussed in detail during the PCCR meetings having representation of all the parties, which were secret.

Ahsan was short of words when asked to give a single example from anywhere in the world where such secret and confidential proceedings were held to make a constitution or constitutional amendment.

Source: The News, April 24, 2010



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