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Monday June 17, 2024

Go to parliament, help solve Pakistan’s problems, Imran told

Lamenting SC ruling, ex-PM asks, "I did not get it, what political scoring did I resort to"

By Arfa Feroz Zake & Mumtaz Alvi
June 07, 2024
A combination of images released by PTI shows former prime minister Imran Khan during his appearance via video-link before the Supreme Court on May 16, 2024. —PTI/File
A combination of images released by PTI shows former prime minister Imran Khan during his appearance via video-link before the Supreme Court on May 16, 2024. —PTI/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa Thursday suggested that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder and former premier Imran Khan should go to parliament to help solve Pakistan’s problems “as the country needs to move forward”.

As the head of a five-member Supreme Court bench, he was conducting hearing of the federal and provincial governments’ appeals, challenging the apex court’s September 15, 2023 majority 2-1 judgment announced by a bench led by former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial. Other members of the incumbent bench are Justice Aminuddin, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi.

The jailed PTI founder appeared before the bench via video link from Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, where he has been incarcerated since his conviction in the Toshakhana case last year.

Presenting his arguments, Khan told the bench that unannounced “martial law” had been imposed in the country and he was convicted in a matter of five days to keep him from the general election. He cited an example of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, saying he was released on bail ahead of the Indian general election to run the campaign.

Khan also expressed dismay over the SC judgment rejecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s plea requesting live streaming of the case. “You wrote [in the judgment] that I did political point- scoring during the last hearing. I did not get it, what political scoring did I resort to,” the PTI founder asked the CJP.

The CJP said a judge did not owe an explanation to anyone over the verdict. “You can file a review petition,” the top judge said in response to Khan’s question. The CJP also asked the former premier to speak only about the matter currently pending before the court.

The PTI founder lamented that he was sentenced to 14 years in the Toshakhana case, claiming that prosecution falsely estimated the value of the watch he received from a foreign dignitary as prime minister at Rs3 billion. Lamenting alleged political victimisation, the PTI founder said the Supreme Court should appoint a NAB chairman. “When opposition and government fail to evolve consensus on the name of NAB chairman, then a third umpire makes the decision,” he said, adding that the anti-graft body was working under the “third umpire”.

Addressing the PTI founder, Justice Minallah said: “Khan sahib, there was no reason to declare the NAB amendments invalid. You might not have read my note. What is left of NAB after your statement?” He further asked Khan whether he still trusted NAB. “After what NAB did to me in 5 days, what credibility is left,” the PTI founder replied. Khan said he was currently facing the NAB inquiries and called for an improvement in the anti-corruption body.

After Justice Minallah reminded the founder about the issue of the appointment of chief election commissioner, he said restoring the amendment would help him in the NAB cases; however, the country “will become bankrupt”.

CJP Isa also barred the PTI founder from citing the Islamabad High Court (IHC) verdict in the cipher cases, saying the appeal in the case might be filed in the apex court. “Why did not you oppose the NAB amendments in parliament?” asked Justice Rizvi. Khan cited the circumstances saying that his government was toppled via conspiracy and he did not want to respond to the “conspiratorial government” in parliament.

CJP Isa told Khan that he was talking about two different things. “On the one hand you are talking about accountability and, on the other hand, you gave amnesty for the black money.” Khan replied that he rolled out tax amnesty during his stint in power to mainstream the black economy. Imran Khan also complained of ‘victimisation’ that he faced since his ouster from power in April 2022.

At the outset of the hearing, Pakistan Peoples Party lawyer Farooq H Naik told the SC that various points of the judgment had been pointed out in the written submissions. “I have written my arguments on the SC judgment,” said the lawyer.

CJP Isa asked the lawyer if he was supporting the decisions following the submissions to the court. Naik said he supported Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s note. “Are you following the arguments of Makhdoom Ali Khan?” asked the chief justice. “My position is the same but the arguments are my own,” said Naik in response.

Khawaja Haris was called to attend the hearing to assist the SC in the appeals. Justice Minallah asked Haris if the way NAB arrested the accused was right. “Many amendments to NAB are good. But we were neither satisfied with the 90-day remand nor the arrests,” the lawyer said. He added that the good amendments were not challenged.

After being questioned about the NAB law by CJP Isa, Haris told the court that it was introduced by the government of former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, while a similar act was passed by the Nawaz Sharif government prior to that. CJP Isa told Haris that the PTI government could have restored the NAB Act. “Pervez Musharraf said that the purpose of NAB’s work was to remove corrupt politicians from the system.” “No politician’s name has been written in our petition,” said Haris. Apparently, the PTI founder’s government also only wanted accountability of politicians, said the chief justice.

No amendment was made in relation to the judiciary and institutions or individuals on which the law is not applicable, said CJP Isa, adding that the parliament could have legislated in this regard. “All major political parties were in the government from 1999 to 2018,” said Haris, adding that no government made such amendments to the law.

Other political parties are not a party to the matter, said the chief justice, adding that the amendments were challenged by the PTI; therefore, they will be questioned. “The amendments were challenged in a specific context. Corruption affects the basic rights of people and looting people’s money is a violation of fundamental rights,” said Haris, adding that NAB laws are applicable to public office holders and they aren’t just politicians.

Is only the NAB authorised to find out whether there is corruption or not, Justice Mandokhel asked. Justice Minallah remarked why NAB’s authority was only placed on the elected public office holder and not a non-elected one. “Do you just want political accountability?” asked the CJP. He later questioned why only politicians were kept under the jurisdiction of NAB as that was “beyond comprehension”.

Haris responded by saying that decisions are made by elected representatives and their implementation is done by bureaucracy. Justice Shah’s opinion was correct or the decision of the two-member bench, CJP Isa asked Haris. “In my opinion, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s note was not correct,” he responded.

Justice Minallah remarked that the parliament’s legislation cannot be suspended — a view that the chief justice also echoed. Justice Minallah asked Haris which amendments were challenged by his client. “The amendments in Section 2 were challenged to apply retroactively. The amendments to Section 4, 16, 21-G and Section 25-D were challenged,” said Haris.

When asked by the judge about repealed amendments, the lawyer provided details to the SC.

During the hearing, Justice Minallah remarked that political engineering was the purpose behind establishing NAB. He told Haris that his client would suffer if the NAB law amendments were annulled. After the respondents concluded their arguments, the Supreme Court reserved a verdict on the federal and provincial government’s plea.

The Supreme Court Thursday reserved the verdict in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendments case, providing a week’s time for those involved to submit further written arguments. Later on, in response to the PTI founder’s solitary confinement allegations, the federal government Thursday submitted documents to show that former prime minister was being provided several facilities. The government provided evidence, including photographs of the facilities that Khan was benefitting from during his incarceration.

In the jail, Khan is provided with an exercise bike and stretching belt for physical fitness, books, a separate kitchen, a special menu, an exclusive gallery for a walk, LED, a room cooler, and a study table. In the detailed document submitted to the court, the government not only provided photographic evidence of all facilities but also the names of all those who visited him in the prison so far. The former prime minister also held 105 meetings with at least 403 people during the time period of 246 days — from September 28 to May 30 — in Adiala jail.

Meanwhile, Punjab Information Minister Azma Bukhari said PTI founder was living a “luxurious life in incarceration, while his cell appears more of his in-laws’ residence than a jail”. She recalled that the PMLN leaders were allowed to meet the party leaders in jail once a week. On the other hand, she said the PTI founder was holding meetings in jail frequently where he was “hatching conspiracies” and [news] articles being written against the country.

Demanding a judicial commission to probe Khan’s claim on jail conditions, the minister said at least 40 to 50 visitors meet the PTI founder in jail. “In view of some judges, his [prison cell] should be turned into a five-star hotel,” she quipped.

Separately, the PTI said even after 77 years, the country’s justice system continued to struggle to break free from the grip of extraconstitutional and undemocratic forces that have held it hostage. The party spokesperson, however, expressed gratitude to SC Justice Athar Minallah for his ‘efforts to uphold the law and Constitution’. He welcomed his dissenting note on a five-member bench that rejected a request to live-stream proceedings in the NAB amendments case. He said successive attacks on the Constitution and repeated imposition of martial laws in Pakistan perpetuated the doctrine of necessity in the judiciary, further entrenching it in the legal framework. Every dictator perpetuated the tradition of controlling the judiciary through intimidation, fear, greed, and overt and covert interventions.

“The PTI remains resolute in its mission to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law, undeterred by the relentless injustices and blatant oppression. Amidst an atmosphere of intellectual barrenness and narcissism, a handful of courageous voices are endeavouring to steer the judiciary towards the path of justice, but their efforts seemed to be futile in penetrating the entrenched biases and rigid mindset of the state and its gatekeepers,” he said.

The PTI spokesman also condemned the ‘abduction’ of Professor Mazhar and Professor Zahoor Mashwani, two brothers of senior PTI social media team member Azhar Mashwani, by the state authorities and demanded that the chief justice of Lahore High Court and chief justice of Pakistan take notice and order their immediate recovery and release.