The Supreme Court of Pakistan questioned the legality of Asset Recovery Unit constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to probe into cases related to money laundering and corruption. The court was told about the violation of certain legal provisions during the hearing of Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s petition, challenging the presidential reference, filed against him over alleged non-disclosure of assets in his wealth statement.
Senator Raza Rabbani presents arguments in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case https://t.co/6nsCRaG5tN
— Pakistan News (@paknews) January 22, 2020
A ten-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, heard the case regarding proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The reference filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa alleges that he acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in wealth returns.
During the course of proceedings, counsel for Sindh High Court Bar Association Raza Rabbani presented a notification regarding the establishment of the Asset Recovery Unit. He said that the Asset Recovery Unit’s duty was to collect material and to conduct an inquiry.
Referring to the documents presented along with his petition, Rabbani said the ARU had tasked the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and intelligence agencies to investigate, probe and inquire matters related to Justice Isa.
Detailing the TORs, he argued that the ARU rules violated constitutional provisions as what the ARU did in Justice Isa’s case by far exceeded “collection” of information.
Raza Rabbani said that the Asset Recovery Unit informed the law minister that there was no evidence, which had been attached to the complaint against the judge
The recovery unit, he added, acted against the top court judge on its own, and that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)-Pakistan were both targeting Justice Isa and Sindh High Court judge KK Agha as they were not content with their judgments.
He said the Asset Recovery Unit was also authorized to deal with issues of all citizens, including judges. Adding that Asset Recovery Unit’s Rules were in contradiction with Article 209. The Asset Recovery Unit conducted inquiries against judges under its rules, he added.
Raza Rabbani said that the Asset Recovery Unit informed the law minister that there was no evidence, which had been attached to the complaint against the judge.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asked who gave the Asset Recovery Unit the authority to investigate against Justice Faez Isa? He asked which law determined the powers of the special assistant.
Justice Maqbool Baqar asked whether the prime minister can delegate his powers to the special assistant? Raza Rabbani responded that nothing can be said about delegating the powers of the prime minister.
The judgment states that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Public Relations “must not exceed their respective mandates”
After completion of Raza Rabbani’s arguments, Advocate Rasheed A Rizvi, counsel representing Karachi Bar Association, started his arguments and stated that if the legal requirements for the investigation were not met, then it could not be processed.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that if the illegally gathered evidence was accepted, then it would open the door forever.
It is important to recall that the government has informed the SC that Justice Qazi Faez Isa was the ‘ostensible owner’ of three properties in the United Kingdom as his family members purchased the assets at a time when they had no independent source of income. The government in its response lamented over the behavior of Justice Isa who, instead of addressing the questions raised in the reference, started vilifying the complainant.
The government’s response states that instead of providing answers, Justice Isa “took a very evasive stand and started vilifying and castigating the complainant”.
Justice Isa’s Strong Judgment
Justice Isa is said to be facing ‘consequences’ after he delivered a strong-worded verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case. The judgment authored by Justice Isa drew some broad and important conclusions. For example, the court has directed the federal and provincial governments to monitor and prosecute those advocating hate, extremism, and terrorism. It also ordered the government ─ through the defense ministry and respective chiefs of the armed forces ─ to initiate action against armed forces’ personnel found to have violated their oath.
Aitzaz Ahsan also believes that reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa is ill-motivated─says the reference is consequence of bold judgement of Justice Faez in Faizabad Sit-in case. In this judgement current DG-ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was held responsible of indulging in politics pic.twitter.com/QqwD6ZfS6h
— Ahmad Noorani (@Ahmad_Noorani) June 25, 2019
The judgment further states that any person who issues an edict or fatwa that “harms another or puts another in harm’s way must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.”
Finally, the judgment states that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Public Relations “must not exceed their respective mandates”. It also reinforced the idea of freedom of speech which, the court said, is also subject to the law.
Many in Pakistan believe that he is now being targeted for his judgment which also made PTI a part of it and slammed it for using the religious card to target the then-government of PML-N. The top court has to determine whether such a speculation holds some ground or not. If yes, the apex court is expected to provide more constitutional security to its judges so that they may pronounce more firm and strong judgments.