Farogh Naseem: Jerry Lewis of Imran Khan cabinet?

Dr. Farogh Naseem has taken oath as law minister for third time in less than two years. While few can doubt his competence, his shifting roles have often sparked interesting debates in legal and political circles.

Farogh Naseem

President Dr. Arif Alvi, on Friday, administered oath to Dr. Farogh Naseem at a ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr Islamabad. MQM Pakistan’s Senator Dr. Farogh Naseem has thus taken oath as the country’s Federal Law Minister for the third time in less than two years.

Dr. Naseem is considered an exceptionally gifted legal mind, an asset for the PTI government, however his shifting roles in and out of the government, his resignations and oaths are becoming a jovial affair. And these shifts have given rise to interesting debates about law and politics.

Dr. Farogh Naseem reminds of Jerry Lewis? 

Dr. Naseem’s multiple useful roles in Imran Khan government may remind many of the legendary American actor, Jerry Lewis, who specialised in playing multiple roles in the same movie.

Jerry Lewis’s skill reached its climax in the famous 1965 movie, “The Family Jewels”. In this movie, Donna Peyton (played by Donna Butterworth) is a ten-year-old girl who inherits a $30 million fortune from her millionaire industrialist father. As per terms of her father’s will, Donna must choose one of her six uncles (all characters played by Jerry Lewis) to become her new “father” – and she was to visit them all to check their characters.

Lewis thus plays James Peyton, a ferryboat captain who had served in the US Navy during WWII; Everet Peyton a famous circus clown who hates kids and had moved to Switzerland to avoid US taxes and Captain Edward “Eddie” Peyton, a pilot based in Los Angeles, California who owns his own airline (Eddie’s Airways) an Airline for the Birds.

But that was not enough; Lewis plays strangely contrasting characters in the same movie so he was Julius Peyton, a professional photographer who loves photographing female models and Lewis Skylock Peyton, a detective who loves tea and lives in England. But Jerry Lewis also becomes Bugsy Peyton, a gangster who kidnaps Donna Peyton to snatch her wealth and Lewis plays Willard Woodward, the family chauffeur who takes Donna to all of her uncles to stay with them for two weeks and he was the one who rescues Donna from gangster Bugsy Peyton by tricking the gangsters into believing that they were surrounded by soldiers.

Farogh Naseem’s multiple uses in Imran Khan Cabinet?

Dr. Farogh Naseem has already taken oath three times while the Imran Khan government has yet to complete its two years. Farogh Naseem had resigned for the first time when he was hired by the federal government in a case related to extension of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Bajwa’s tenure extension was under challenge in the Supreme Court. Dr. Naseem resigned on 26th November and was sworn in again as Federal Law Minister, on 29th November 2019, within three days, for the second time after the successful argument of the case in Supreme Court in front of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

However, when Justice Faiz Isa of the Supreme Court filed a petition against his presidential reference, Farogh Naseem once again resigned, in June 2020, (1st June) from his ministry and fought the case before the larger bench as the government’s representative. Now he has been sworn in as Law Minister (24, July) for the third time within two months of his second resignation.

Read More: Farogh Naseem resigns as federal minister for law on request of PM

Why Farogh Naseem resigns and comes back? 

PM’s aide on accountability Shehzad Akbar had explained, in 2019, that Dr. Naseem had resigned as he could not, by way of law, argue the case as the federal law minister. Akbar had then explained that Naseem could once again take up the mantle of the federal minister after the case ended. 

Dr. Farogh Naseem is an exceptionally talented lawyer of Pakistan. He did his LLB from University of Wales, his LLM from London School of Economics and his Phd, in comparative Constitutional law, from University of London. His father Mohammad Naseem was a successful Karachi based tax lawyer and his grandfather, Justice MB Ahmed was an ICS officer who was later inducted as a judge of Sindh High Court. In the initial years of Pakistan, ICS officers were inducted in the judiciary. Some of the famous names like Justice Cornelius came from ICS cadre.

Pakistan Bar Council not happy over Farogh Naseem’s shifting roles

Read More: Justice Faez Isa Reference: Can Farogh Naseem represent the federation?

When, in November 2019, for successfully representing government’s case – in Gen. Bajwa’s extension – the practice licence of the then former law minister was restored by the Attorney General (AG) Pakistan Bar Council had raised objections.

Vice president PBC. Amjad Shah, had urged that the AG’s decision be declared null and void by the bar council, as the council was not confided in regarding the restoration of the Minister’s license. His position was:

“The former law minister had submitted an application for restoration of his licence earlier this year. Upon his application, the AG took the decision and restored his licence without taking the bar council into confidence. Resultantly, the bar council declared AG’s decision null and void. Now when Dr Farogh Naseem has resigned from the Ministry, he should submit the application for restoration of his licence. The enrolment committee of bar council will then decide whether to restore his licence or not”.

Senior legal and constitutional experts including Hamid Khan and former Attorney General Irfan Qadir had also argued in tv programs that the AG had no power to immediately restore the practice licence of a lawyer. They agued that the enrolment committee of bar council takes the decision whom to enrol or expel. However there were other analysts on media who pointed out that Hamid Khan and Irfan Qadir being opponents of the PTI government are giving political arguments and Supreme Court will not buy these frivolous arguments.

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) in its meeting held in Quetta had then declared the AG’s decision null and void. The minutes of that meeting are a public record. PBC’s argument was that:

“Dr Farogh Naseem is not eligible for representing General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his tenure extension case before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. If he appeared before the court, he will violate Article 58 (2) Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973”, said Amjad Shah. Article 58 (2) says, “Any advocate who practices the profession of law, or acts or appears as agent for any other person, while he is suspended from practice, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both”.

However, the Pakistan Bar Association restored the license when the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Asif Saeed Khosa observed that the Apex court didn’t want to waste time on a side issue to let the institution of army suffer and asked Naseem to settle the licence issue or come with an associate if he wanted to argue on behalf of the COAS.

Will Dr. Farogh Naseem resign again to bail out government on another legal issue remains to be seen. But he has already created history by taking oath three times in less than two years for the same position.

GVS News Desk with input from its legal correspondent Maneha Tariq. Maneha has studied law from Lahore School of Management Sciences (LUMS) and is interested in constitutional matters. 

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