Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) government is once again making all possible effort to avoid any political or legal crisis. The situation went terribly wrong after former Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan issued some ‘highly objectionable’ statements against the judges of the superior court. The court directed Mr. Khan to give evidence to back his claims or submit written apology. “As [a] certain statement was made by the AG about the bench yesterday, it would be appreciated if the material on the basis of which the statement was made is placed on record before the bench,” a visibly disturbed Justice Bandial said while dictating the order at the end of Wednesday’s hearing. Meanwhile, the principal law officer of the government has resigned.
Contrary to what the federal government has said, Mr. Khan clarified in a TV talk-show that the information he had shared before the apex court was given to him by the government.
“I was not explicitly advised to share it before the court but it was given to me by the responsible quarter of the federal government,” he said.
PTI disowns AGP’s statement
Interestingly, a response submitted on behalf of the federal government in the Supreme Court said the “statement” made by Khan on February 18 was “unauthorised, without instructions and knowledge of the federal government and the answering respondents, and totally uncalled for”.
The government has reiterated that it regards the courts in the highest respect. “It is pointed out that the federal government of Pakistan and the answering respondents hold the superior judiciary for Pakistan in the highest respect and esteem,” it read.
“Accordingly, the federal government and the answering respondents dissociate themselves from the statement of the learned attorney general,” the response submitted by Law and Justice Division Secretary Muhammad Khashih-ur-Rehman read.
The document also clarified that the government firmly believes in the rule of law. “The federal government and the answering respondents verily believe in the rule of law, constitutionalism and the independence of the judiciary,” it concluded.
AGP resigned or he was asked to resign?
In his resignation letter, the top lawyer said: “I note with profound regret that the Pakistan Bar Council, of which I am the Chairman, has demanded through its press release dated 19th of February 2020 that I resign forthwith from the Office of the Attorney General of Pakistan”. It is worth noting that in a statement, the PBC vice president had asked the attorney general to submit an unconditional written apology along with his resignation for his “unbecoming conduct”. The statement added that the PBC would not tolerate any government-sponsored attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the process of dispensation of justice.
Another Resignation: Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan RESIGNS ! pic.twitter.com/vxknXD0QCQ
— Mansoor Ali Khan (@_Mansoor_Ali) February 20, 2020
Speaking in Geo News programme ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath’ hosted by Shahzeb Khanzada, Farogh Nasim said Anwar Mansoor’s version was based on lies and the government had no idea about the allegations on the apex court judges. He said the performance of the attorney general was not up to the mark in Justice Faez Isa case and he angered the judges through his bad performance due to which he was asked to resign. He said the government would have never allowed him to give the statement in the apex court had it known it before.
Notably, during a media talk, Minister for Law Farogh Nasim and Asset Recovery Unit chief Shahzad Akbar said that the federal government had asked AG Anwar Mansoor to quit. The minister said the government had told the attorney general that it would be better if he submits his resignation himself. However, Anwar Mansoor Khan said no one from the government has spoken to him, therefore, the question of taking his resignation didn’t arise.
Challenge for the government
The situation for the government has become quite undesirable to defend the reference it has filed against Justice Faez Isa. Some analysts already believe that 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.
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.
It is to be seen as to how the government deals with a situation where the law minister and the former attorney general are rubbishing each other’s version. This raises serious questions about the consultation process between and among the government institution under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.