MABAD - Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Monday has allowed Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Saqib Nisar to head Abbottabad and Saleem Shahzad murder inquiry commissions respectively. However, Asma Jahangir and Justice (r) Fakharuddin G Ibrahim has refused to be the members of the commissions.
The government formed a commission on June 1, 2011 to probe the US unilateral operation in Abbottabad in which al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed, while on June 16 the government announced another commission to investigate the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. The government constituted both the commissions under Section 3 of Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 (Act VI of 1956). The Law Ministry on June 19 had written two letters to Supreme Court (SC) registrar requesting the Chief Justice (CJ) to appoint honourable judges of the SC to head the inquiry commissions.
The chief justice considered the requests carefully. He stated that although this court was already short of its sanctioned strength and honourable judges are committed to administer justice even beyond their capacity, while continuously holding the benches at the principle seat and the branch registries and on account of tremendous increase in the number of cases, they have to discharge their functions beyond the normal working hours. However, in view of the national interest, he allowed Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Saqib Nisar to head the probe commissions. The chief justice stated, The competent authority, while nominating the other members of the commissions will also consider their status
The government had earlier proposed the same names to head the above said commissions but the formation of both the commissions was challenged on grounds that the government had not consulted the CJ as required by law. Moreover, the parties seeking constitution of probe commissions were dissatisfied with their scope.
Earlier the same day, while hearing the Saleem Shahzad murder case, the SC directed the government to form a judicial commission to probe the killing of the journalist, telling that no more delay in formation of the commission would be tolerated.
A two-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justice Amir Hani Muslim heard the petition filed by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) regarding the killing of a journalist, Saleem Shahzad, who was mysteriously abducted on May 29 and his dead body was recovered from a canal in Mandi Bahauddin the next day.
The CJP asked the government to avoid overburdening the court through shirking from its responsibilities. He said that everything should not come to the court as the government need to do its job, adding In our opinion, the government should be allowed to do its job.
At the outset of proceedings, the chief justice informed the counsel for applicants that he has received the governments letter, seeking name of a judge for leading the commission in Saleem Shahzad murder case.
The chief justice said that the injustices against journalists should be stopped; adding that another incident of torture of journalist has been reported in Islamabad. He said that the both the commissions, on Abbottabad and Saleem Shahzad, would work under the Supreme Court judges.
After the courts break, the counsels for PFUJ, Asma Jahangir and Munir A Malik told the court that they had not agreed with the earlier commission as no consultation was carried out with the CJ for the formation of commission, which was against the independence of judiciary.
Asma Jahangir asked the court not to confine the commission to the investigation of Shahzads killing. Munir also pleaded the court to enhance scope of the commission, saying that severe violation of fundamental rights were mentioned in the case as 74 other journalists were also murdered in the past and now it was high time to enforce fundamental rights, either by the court or the commission.
Munir A Malik said now as the government had started the process of consultation with the chief justice, the government should be asked to expand the scope of inquiry of that commission.
Meanwhile, federation counsel, Dr Babar Awan stated that they had no objection to expand the scope of the commission because the government and its institutions, the spy agencies and the ISPR wanted transparency in the investigation.
Supreme Court Bar Associations President Asma Jahangir said that according to the police reports, they had failed to get the mobile phone record of Saleem Shahzad.
The CJP observed that after going through the reports of both the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Islamabad IGP regarding the case on Sunday, he had come to the conclusion that it was a case that which could easily be traced out within four days.
He said that if the government would not make the commissions report public then the applicant could again approach the apex court. I myself made the Flood Commission and Bank of Punjabs reports public, the chief justice said.
The chief justice said that the court would announce head of the commission after the court hearing, which would be set up to investigate Shahzads killing. However, he said that the rest of the members would be appointed by the government and said that remaining members should be of same status as the judges of the Supreme Court.
The chief justice said that scope of the commission would be enhanced while it would not be given much time to prepare the investigation report as both the parties in the case have no objection over enhancing scope of the commission. He said the commission should also take the reservations of the journalists into consideration.
The CJP also observed that the governments earlier commission on Saleem Shahzad murder case stands abolished; therefore the government should reconstitute commission as early as possible, keeping in view the dignity of the Supreme Courts judges.
After the governments willingness to expand the scope of the commission, the court disposed of the PFUJ petition.