Chairman, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf, Imran khan said on Thursday that his party has rejected the notion to constitute a judicial commission to probe the Panama corruption scandal case.
We have enough faith in the competence of this Supreme Court bench 1/2#IKPressCon
— PTI (@PTIofficial) December 8, 2016
This is why we ask for a 5 member bench, and a day to day hearing to bring this case to its end. #IKPressCon
— PTI (@PTIofficial) December 8, 2016
“We want day to day hearing by the apex court on this issue” Imran Khan said in a media talk at his residence in Bani Gala.
He said this in response to the Supreme Court on Wednesday suggesting the constitution of a Commission to investigate into the matter. “When ultimately we have to go to the constitution of the commission then why [we are] wasting time at this stage,” Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali, remarked during the hearing.
Amir Jamat-e-Islami, Siraj ul Haq, has petitioned the court to create a commission to investigate the panama corruption allegations. Most legal experts and political commentators are of the opinion that Nawaz government will also like to see the formation of a Judicial Commission, for it may then linger on for weeks and months, away from media attention, and public interest or expectations will gradually disappear. Imran Khan, leader of the PTI, is however demanding that Supreme Court appoint a five member permanent bench that hears the case, on day to day basis, till its finalization.
Today, during his press conference Imran khan vowed that Prime Minister has lied to the nation in the parliament. “Nawaz Sharif’s speech was scripted. He lied to hide his corruption because he was not expecting to face Supreme Court on the issue” Khan was reacting to the admission of Nawaz family lawyers in the court, a day earlier, when they said that PM Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the parliament on panama issue was only political. Nawaz’s lawyers were making the argument that Nawaz Sharif statements in the Supreme Court can be materially different from what he said on the floor of the parliament.
Imran Khan, in his press conference, was unusually furious on the issue. Khan said: “What does it mean? that he lied to the nation on the floor of the parliament for political gain. He lied about having documentation, about having the money trail, and pledged that he will present them in the court, but he lied” Khan then added rhetorically:” Yesterday, what did we hear? that he had no documents?. PTI’s leader argued that from the very papers provided by the Nawaz lawyers we now know that Gulf Steel had no money, that Gulf Steel was in reality making losses. He added: “when court asked them about all this, they, the lawyers said that we don’t know where the money came from, our business was on ‘parchis’ (informal notes on pieces of paper)” He rhetorically added:” Did they do business in the dark ages, using camels and donkeys? in an era without fax machines and communications? And if it was so then why did he not say all that in the parliament?”
But Imran Khan insisted that the speech Nawaz Sharif did on the floor of the parliament was a calculated speech which was read from a piece of paper, and was not comments from the top of his head. All this is now becoming like the Al-Tofeeq case, where we don’t know where the $34 million came from? how Sharifs made that payment, we don’t know, Khan argued.
Imran Khan also gave reference to the Watergate scandal faced by President Nixon, when he was impeached for tapping calls of the opposition party, Democrats and then lying to the country. He argued that Nawaz has lost all moral grounds to rule the country for repeatedly lying on the issues related to Panama case.
Nixon was impeached cuz he lied to the nation, Bill Clinton was nearly impeached cuz he hid the truth from the nation. #IKPressCon
— PTI (@PTIofficial) December 8, 2016
Imran Khan said that he has consulted experts and received ‘feedback’, that no one favored going for a Commission to sit and decide on the case. He further added that only one feedback recommended a Commission and that too if Nawaz should first resign as the PM. He went on to contend that state institutions would not be able to investigate independently the facts of the case if the person under investigation, in this case the prime minister, held power over them.
He felt that a five members bench is ‘capable’, thus SC should decide the case. Since both parties, PML-N and PTI have some reservations over the proposed commission – it will be a test for both, many legal experts believes.
This press conference came at a time when Chief Justice Anwar Jamali is due to retire by December 31, 2016, and the Supreme court has announced that a full-court reference and farewell dinner will be hosted in his honor, on December 15, due to winter recess in the apex court. In this situation, if both the parties do not agree on a commission then the bench will have only two days for hearing in the next week before December 15.
In yet another development, on Wednesday 7 December, earlier than expected, the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, appointed Justice Mian Saqib Nisar as the 25th head of the Supreme Court with effect from December 31.
Since succession of the Chief Justice of Pakistan takes place on the principle of seniority and there is no ambiguity about it, so this rather early notification, by the government, surprised legal experts, for it had no legal or functional importance. It however has a psychological value for it serves to remind the media and public that Chief Justice Jamali is retiring. It is perhaps in this context that opposition leader, Imran Khan, is demanding, from the outgoing Chief Justice, the creation of a permanent five member bench of the Supreme Court for day to day hearings of the case till its conclusion.
Justice Nisar was elevated to the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in Feb 2010 – but the transition had an interesting political background. The then president, Asif Ali Zardari had rejected the recommendation by the Chief Justice to elevate Justice Saqib Nisar, he had in turn ordered that Justice Khawaja Sharif, the then Chief Justice Lahore High Court be elevated to the Supreme Court. Justice Kh. Sharif was seen very close to the PMLN government in Punjab, and it was considered that President Zardari was trying to weaken the hold of PMLN in Punjab by elevating Justice Sharif to the Supreme Court. Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken a sub-moto notice against the orders of President Zardari and constituted a three member bench to examine the presidential orders. It lead to the elevation of Justice Saqib Nisar to the Supreme Court.
Justice Saqib Nisar has been a respected judge of Lahore High Court, and previous to this he was member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). He was elected as secretary general of the LHCBA in 1991. In March 1997, the then Nawaz Govt appointed him as federal law secretary; it was the first time that someone from the bench had been elevated to that position.
Govt of PM Nawaz Sharif has in the third week of November, (18th Nov, 2016) moved a bill, in Pakistan’s national assembly, for 24th Constitutional amendment. Through this bill, government seeks to create a provision that orders by Supreme court bench, under Article 184, of the constitution of Pakistan, under which Supreme Court is hearing the Panama case – under the original jurisdiction of the court – can be appealed in a bench larger than the bench that passed the original order. Currently, in case of an adverse decision by the Supreme court bench hearing the case, PM Nawaz and family can file a review however this will be heard by the same bench. Now govt. of Nawaz Sharif intends to change that, through 24th Constitutional amendment. If that bill becomes law, then the PM, in case of an adverse decision by the five member bench, will have the right to appeal against that decision to a bigger bench, constituted by the Chief Justice, and the political demands of a resignation can be countered. This background helps explain the mounting political tensions, sense of urgency in Imran Khan’s demands and the significance of the appointment of the new chief justice.
Opposition lead by PTI and Jammat-e-Islami have termed the timing of 24th Amendment Bill as totally self serving and politically motivated, coming at at time when PM Nawaz Sharif needs relief from supreme court. However PMLN has enough numbers in national assembly to pass the bill, problem lies in Senate where govt. lacks the majority and PPP is making conflicting signals. Senator Farhat Ullah Babar had assured government of PPP’s support, but later Sen. Aitzaz Ahsan, after meeting with PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said that PPP will not support the amendment till the conclusion of the Panama case.