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Contempt for the constitution

Formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) by the Supreme Court in the PanamaGate case became a cause for PML (N) party stalwarts to celebrate “victory” and start distributing sweets, indicative of a mindset totally devoid of reality. While one appreciates the Sharif family members for appearing before the JIT and not plead some medical excuse or the other, once they started being interrogated reality sunk in. The PML-N is now attacking the JIT, and by extension the Supreme Court (SC), with venom, crossing all Constitutional bounds. Mixing facts with fiction, a motivated section of the media is shamelessly attempting to make the ongoing judicial process controversial.

The normally calm and collected Ishaq Dar losing his cool was shocking, reinforcing the public perception prevailing that the members of the Sharif family have reason to fear something. Maryam Nawaz kept repeating the political persecution theme “conspiracy theory by hidden hands”. Even though she did not answer reporters’ questions after her interrogation on July 5, she was impressive at the formal launch of her political career. Tutor extraordinary Jugnu Mohsin should be proud of her star pupil. One can appreciate that it is perhaps Jugnu’s wit behind her tweets.

Celebrating Eid in London, the PM called the JIT a “joke, a comedy circus”. Equate this with Senator Nehal Hashmi threatening members of the JIT and the SC judges, “We will not spare you!”? The Honourable Judges of the SC opined that the incumbent government was acting like “the Sicilian Mafia, which would threaten judges”. When a bailiff of any court is obstructed from doing his duty, it is considered gross contempt of court with punitive action against those persons obstructing/threatening the bailiff. The JIT is the bailiff mandated by the SC to carry out a detailed enquiry into the PanamaGate case.

The pattern of grave intimidation is reminiscent of two decades ago when contempt of court proceedings against Mian Nawaz Sharif were disrupted by a PML (N) mob that ransacked by the SC; and the Honourable judges in Courtroom No. 1 had to run for cover. The 1997 judicial saga only ended when a split within the SC was orchestrated by the PML (N), Justice Ajmal Mian replacing Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. Saad Rafique made a rather absurd claim that “only in Pakistan these (Panama) documents were taken seriously, where an elected prime minister and his family were dragged into court cases”. Is Saad Rafique just acting dumb, what about the massive international fallout of the Panama Papers? Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had to step aside from his office amid mounting public outrage that his family had sheltered money offshore. So did Mihran Poghosyan, Armenia’s top bailiff, known as the Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer. José Manuel Soria, Spain’s minister for industry, energy and tourism, was forced to leave his post and as did the head of a state-owned bank in Austria, Hypo Landesbank Voralberg, etc.

The blatant political contempt for the sanctity of JIT’s investigation proceedings has encouraged a free-for-robber-take-all environment with increasing violations of the Constitution. Aimed at zero accountability of the unchecked rampant corruption and corrupt practices the repealing of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) in Sindh province is tantamount to high treason and mutiny from a Federated edifice of a state structure. Despite attempts to misinterpret the 18th Amendment, the Federal Legislative List is unambiguous. It empowers Provinces to have administrative jurisdiction on its institutions but for accountability and criminality, Article 143 shall prevail over all the criminal laws.

Frustrated by the superior judiciary, the Sindh government has taken away Inspector General (IG) Sindh Police A. D. Khawaja’s powers for posting of key senior police officers. His “crime” is interfering with PPP leadership and its cronies from criminally using the police apparatus for promoting organized crime, corruption and terrorism in the Province. Serial 32 of Federal Legislative List empowers federal government to fulfil international obligations and not the provinces. The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) ratified by Pakistan makes it mandatory under Article 6 for federal government to establish Anti-Corruption Body to implement prevention of corruption policies, share knowledge with other jurisdictions and ensure necessary independence in accountability across its landmass.

The 4th Schedule Legislative List (Article 70[4]) Serial 56, ‘Offenses against laws respect to any of the matters’ is the jurisdiction of federal government. The sixth schedule whereby no amendment could be made without prior approval of President has been amended through Section 102 – Eighteenth Amendment Act 2010, bestowing upon National Assembly (NA) to amend or repeal any Federal Act. At Serial 26 NAO still exists as approved NA Law. Extending it to the whole of Pakistan, Section 4 applies to all persons in Pakistan (all citizens of Pakistan) and persons who are and have been in the service of Pakistan including FATA. Unless this Section excludes Sindh, Article 143 (Inconsistency between Federal and Provincial Laws) still exists, ‘If any provision of an act of a Provincial Assembly is repugnant to any provision of Act of Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of any existing law with respect to any of the matters enumerated in Legislative List then the act of Parliament whether passed before or after the act of Provincial Assembly or, as the case may be, the existing law shall prevail and the Act of Provincial Assembly shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void, has the overriding effect.”

The proviso of Article Section 142 (b) empowers Provincial Assembly to do legislation for criminal jurisprudence provided there is no conflict with Article 143 which covers criminal matters falling into the realm of inconsistency. The Supreme Court validated NAO under the Asfandyar Wali vs State Case in 2003 and also in 2013, its decision stands at a position of law when not reviewed.


Ikram Sehgal, "Contempt for the constitution," Business Recorder. 2017-07-07.
Keywords: Economics , Eighteenth amendment act , National accountability ordinance , Federal Legislative , Supreme court , Panamagate , Senator Nehal Hashmi , Maryam Nawaz , Ishaq Dar , Nawaz Sharif , JIT , PML-N , UNCAC

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