ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, while yielding to the court direction on Tuesday, said steps would be taken to implement the judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
Raja told the court that he had asked Law Minister Farooq H Naek to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for revoking the note written by former attorney general Malik Qayyum about the closure of Swiss cases.
The assurance came as a five-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa was hearing the NRO implementation issue. The prime minister appeared before the bench along with Naek and his counsel Wasim Sajjad.
The court directed the law minister to produce the authorisation and the draft communication related to the court directive on September 25, saying the court would fix the timeframe for further action after that.
The court also exempted the prime minister from personal appearance and adjourned the case till September 25 with caution: “We will not go beyond the 17-member larger bench verdict.”
Justice Khosa said the issue was not against President Asif Ali Zardari but the court only wanted from the government to write letter to the Swiss authorities with a direction to ignore the letter written by former attorney general Malik Qayyum as it was unlawful.
During the last hearing, the prime minister had appeared before the bench along with the law minister and told the court that despite the complexities of the case, sincere efforts would be made to implement the orders.
Raja on Tuesday again appeared before the bench and at the outset stated that he had already issued necessary instructions to the law minister for implementing para 178 of the NRO judgment in letter and spirit in view of the court directives.
The prime minister stated that there were certain concerns in the government, which needed to be addressed by the court to finalise the case.
The bench appreciated the efforts made by the premier to resolve the longstanding issue, but said certain steps needed to be taken, including a written authorisation by the prime minister regarding drafting of the communication and receipt of it by the Swiss official concerned and other authorities and the final receipt of the communication abroad. The prime minister ordered the law minister to cooperate with the court and take steps for the implementation of the court directives.
The law minister said the process required some time and a timeframe should be determined in this connection.
Earlier, Justice Khosa asked the prime minister not to delay the matter further. “If you have given positive statement then had you authorised the law minister.” Raja replied in ‘yes’, but said there were many concerns.
Justice Khosa said: “Our order will address your concern about the international customary law.”
The prime minister said: “I don’t know the law but Farooq H Naek would explain the problems faced by the government in this regard.”
He said that the court also had to keep in mind its far-reaching consequences. “The court is also aware of the pressure on the government for the last one year.”
Raja informed the court that on Monday, some TV channels aired that he was playing tricks and he felt bad about it.
“The prime minister does not indulge in tricks,” he said, adding that he could not give any deadline and the timeframe at the moment.
He pressed his argument, saying, the next month was very busy as President Asif Ali Zardari and he had foreign tours in their schedule, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was arriving in Pakistan October 2.
Justice Khosa stated the PM had resolved the real problem and the execution was only thing remaining. He said the court would resolve the issue before October 2.
Justice Khosa said out of the four steps regarding the issue of sending summary and drafting the letter could be combined, while the dispatch and receipt issues would be seen later on.
The honourable judge said if the authorization was given, the whole issue could be resolved in a day.
The PM and the law minister sought one month time but the court granted only one week and remarked writing a summary was not difficult for Naek.
However, the law minister presented some excuses, including that they have to discuss the issue with the president.
But Justice Khosa said the prime minister, who was the chief executive of the country, had given a directive that must be executed, adding that discussions had been taking place for the last two and half years.
Justice Khosa asked the law minister to send immediately the summary to the prime minister, who would approve it.
The court asked the law minister: “The whole issue is on your fingertips and you know each and everything. Now, there is no need of further discussion.”
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till September 25 after granting one week time.
Agencies add: “It is necessary we should be fully satisfied that the requirement of the order is fully met,” Justice Khosa said.
“When the letter is drafted it shall be presented in the court for our perusal.”
It was not clear whether he (Raja) was stalling for time or would make a serious effort to meet the demands of the Supreme Court, which has emerged as a power center, taking on civilian leaders as well as the country’s powerful military.
“Time will tell. It’s our job to implement whatever has been directed,” Law Minister Farooq Hamid Naek told Reuters.
“The letter when dispatched will also contain the reservations the federal government had.”
Legal experts were also cautious in their interpretation.
“The legal effect of the letter when written should mean opening of the cases that had been closed earlier,” said lawyer Chaudhry Ramzan, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council.
“But it (the case) will be reopened subject to the law of that country (Switzerland) and the international immunity available to heads of state.”