News Analysis |
On Wednesday, the Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal appeared before a Lahore High Court (LHC) full bench to explain his contemptuous remarks after Chief Justice Saqib Nisar questioned his involvement in the appointment of Dr Uzma Qureshi as the Chancellor of Lahore College for Woman University.
In an attempt to explain his position, Ahsan Iqbal told the bench that he could not even think of disgracing the judiciary. “I am a political worker and a true believer in democracy. And I firmly believe that survival of democracy is dependent on a strong judicial system,“ he stated.
Post-Panama revelations, the ongoing investigations in the National Accountability Bureau and deteriorating public profile of the PML-N and subsequent court proceedings may have led to this outburst.
The three-member bench, headed by Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, came down hard on him and ordered/directed the minister to submit a written response regarding his anti-judicial remarks rather than the providing an oral explanation.
The court ordered to play the clip of the minister’s controversial remarks in the courtroom. Responding to the order, Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, the counsel of the minister, pleaded the court to not show the video in the courtroom as there was nothing in it.
Justice Naqvi, the head of the bench, rejected the plea. While ordering the staff to make arrangements for the next hearing to play the video on a screen using a projector, the judge said that “we just want to see it for our own knowledge.”
The court remarked that “under the Constitution, the conduct of a superior court judge could not even be discussed in the Parliament, then how can you do this in public?
Responding to the judge’s remarks, the minister said, “I can’t even think about disgracing the courts and it was a personal Shikwa (complaint) which he made, being a common citizen of the country.”
Ahsan Iqbal was the latest one to join the bandwagon and became part of agenda to malign the court and gather popular support against the judiciary, using the victim card.
He blamed the opposition for dragging his name in the controversy with mala fide intention. Moreover, he claimed that his statement was within the constitutional limits. One of the members of the bench observed that “it was the minister’s motivation which led to the incident of Kasur when he used the derogatory remarks against the judiciary”.
Iqbal negated the reference made to the Kasur incident and said, he cannot even think about doing something like that. The judge inquired about the actions he took against the culprits in Kasur, to which Iqbal replied that the incident took place in a provincial domain. Had it occurred in Islamabad, he would have taken serious actions.
In response to Iqbal’s statement, Justice Naqvi asked the minister whether he had read Article 19 of the Constitution (which deals with the freedom of expression). Iqbal said I wish I was a lawyer. I studied engineering in the US. The judge directed Iqbal’s counsel to read out Article 19 to enlighten him on how to respect the state institutions.
The PML-N leader has been decrying the role of the superior judiciary. Using a well-devised strategy, the PML-N leaders deliberately attacked the top judiciary after ousting of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Judicial activism of JCP Nisar has not gone too well with the PML-N government. Some of the top tier leadership of the party, which includes Nehal Hashmi, Talal Chaudhary, and Daniyal Aziz, were reprimanded for raising anti-judicial slogans during political engagements and even live on TV programs.
Responding to the order, Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, the counsel of the minister, pleaded the court to not show the video in the courtroom as there was nothing in it.
The derogatory language and tirade against the top court were dealt with and the Court opened contempt proceedings against the PML-N leaders on different occasions. Ahsan Iqbal was the latest one to join the bandwagon and became part of agenda to malign the court and gather popular support against the judiciary, using the victim card.
Hashmi’s early release and pardon encouraged the PML-N workers in Kasur and its leaders to continue its tirade against the judiciary, expecting no serious charges. On April 22, JCP took a Suo Moto notice over Dr Uzma Qureshi’s appointment and paid no heed to her plea that suspension could dent her reputation.
Iqbal challenged the chief justice to charge him if there was any proof of his involvement in the appointment.
Iqbal may have had a rather cordial relationship with the court. He seemed to have cooperated well with the IHC during the Faizabad sit-in, and in Apex court case regarding the fee hike in identity cards for expatriates.
Such derogatory remarks from someone who had shown restraint under intense situations and respected the court were a little surprising. Post-Panama revelations, the ongoing investigations in the National Accountability Bureau and deteriorating public profile of the PML-N and subsequent court proceedings may have led to this outburst.
Iqbal was even reprimanded for showing aggression and was advised to tone down his voice on the court. The LHC has directed the council to come up with a written reply and adjourned the hearing until June 5.