Two resigned, others may follow…
In Pakistan, an atmosphere of palpable excitement and tumult prevails, akin to the thick smog in Punjab and Lahore, where visibility is so limited that even one’s own hands become unseen. Every passing moment is laden with significant and breaking news, constantly keeping the public on edge. Unfortunately, this pervasive frenzy is not a harbinger of hope but rather a thick cloud of war alarms that hangs over the nation, casting a shadow on aspirations for a better future. In this relentless struggle to outmaneuver rivals, the foundational pillars of the state and its institutions are engaged in a perilous game of pulling each other down.
The Senate, pitted against the Judiciary, has taken a bold step by passing a resolution calling for an indefinite delay in the upcoming elections. This move, a direct challenge to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which had firmly set the election date for February 8, 2024, serves as a mockery of the highest court’s historic decision.
The Supreme Court, issued a stern rebuke to the Lahore High Court, asserting in no uncertain terms that the court is complicit with those seeking to delay elections for their vested interests.
The PTI’s struggle over the BAT symbol has become a legal rollercoaster, marked by conflicting decisions. Despite the Peshawar High Court’s back-and-forth on allocating the symbol, the Election Commission chose to disregard court orders and withhold the emblem. PTI swiftly responded by filing a contempt petition, slated for tomorrow (12th Jan 2024). The Election Commission is all set to file an appeal before the Supreme Court. The deliberate choice of the Peshawar High Court, over the potentially jurisdictional Islamabad High Court, underscores PTI’s resolute belief in the latter’s compromise.
The two judges of the Supreme Court have already tendered their resignations, with the looming possibility of more following suit. If this trend continues, it could plunge the credibility and impartiality of both the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice into intense scrutiny, potentially rendering the apex court practically dysfunctional.
The rift within the Supreme Court was initiated by an audacious move from an unfamiliar lawyer, Mian Dawood, who, in February 2023, filed a complaint against Justice Mazahar Naqvi. The complaint alleges violations of the code of conduct for judges outlined in Clause (8) of Article 209 of the Constitution. The accusations leveled against Justice Naqvi include misconduct, the creation of illegal assets, and the accumulation of wealth through frontmen. Later, this complaint was turned into a formal complaint. The SJC issued two show-cause notices, demanding that Justice Naqvi explain the apparent inconsistencies in his financial records.
Justice Naqvi, vehemently denied any wrongdoing and labeled the show-cause notices as politically motivated tools wielded against him. He filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a stay order. The Supreme Court’s dismissal of Naqvi’s petition proved to be a turning point.
With the SJC investigation set to move forward, Naqvi opted for a dramatic exit. In a concise resignation letter, he maintained his innocence but acknowledged that continuing under such a cloud of suspicion was untenable.
Justice Naqvi’s resignation left more questions than answers. Did it signify an admission of guilt, or was it a strategic retreat from a perceived unfair process?. Was it a tacit acknowledgement of wrongdoing or a desperate attempt to escape scrutiny?.
As a former Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax with over a decade of experience, I assert with confidence that the allegations against Muzhar Naqvi, revolving around property transactions at significantly disparate values, resonate across civil and military officers, politicians, judges, and business figures. If such practices were absent, and all individuals adhered strictly to legal obligations, our nation might have charted a different course.
The inherent inconsistency in the handling of similar circumstances, particularly the parallel allegations against Qazi Faez Isa, raises questions about the fairness of the entire episode. In a situation where allegations against Isa were dismissed, and accusations of amassing wealth exceeding 12 billion by former Army Chief Qamar Javaid Bajwa only led to the incarceration of those disclosing this information, it suggests a nuanced and potentially unjust dimension to the legal proceedings.
Recalling the allegations against Qazi Faez Isa, pertaining to the acquisition of three London properties leased in the names of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, raises parallels with the current situation, emphasizing the need for consistency and fairness in addressing such matters across different individuals and institutions.
Let us peruse, the Supreme Judicial Council decision point wise.
● The reference to be of no legal effect, non maintainable whatsoever and stands quashed.
● Reference was filed with malafide intention, prematurity and lack of evidence”.
● Government agencies including the FIA secretly obtained information about the petitioner and his family in clear transgression of Articles 4 and 14 of the Constitution
Similar observations can be extended to the case involving Justice Mazahar Naqvi. The petitioner, in this instance, is a lawyer who doesn’t bear any direct impact from the alleged property transactions with Justice Naqvi. There is no record of the petitioner engaging in property transactions with the judge, neither as a buyer nor a seller, and therefore, lacks a legitimate basis to possess detailed information about Justice Naqvi’s properties or their transactional intricacies.
It becomes apparent that the origin of such detailed information is likely rooted in the historical practices of influential and powerful sectors, known for exerting pressure, offering bribes, and cultivating relationships with judges. It’s a recurring pattern that references or complaints are often filed against judges and officials who resist yielding to illegal demands made through proxies. This underscores the challenges and pressures faced by those within the judiciary who choose to uphold their integrity and independence in the face of external influence.
Having reviewed the income tax and wealth tax returns of numerous politicians, bureaucrats, and military officials during my tenure, the reality is that the allegations leveled against Justice Mazahar are likely applicable to the tax returns of many individuals.
The narrative takes a disconcerting turn when defending vested interests led to the sweeping abolition of laws and the abrupt halt of critical surveys. During an economic survey in 2001 that documented previously undeclared immovable properties of numerous army officers, not only was the wealth tax abolished, but the entire survey was abruptly terminated.
In light of this context, a pertinent question emerges: why was the applicant who filed the reference not summoned for an inquiry into the sources of information within the FBR? Why did the FBR, exclusively vested with jurisdiction over tax matters, escape admonishment for leaking sensitive information against an honorable judge? Why did the SJC encroach upon the exclusive jurisdiction of the FBR? The inconsistency in arguments, notably the acceptance of similar arguments in the case of Qazi Faez Isa but their rejection in the case of Justice Mazahar Naqvi, raises eyebrows.
These apparent contradictions and discrepancies in the arguments and proceedings of the SJC likely contributed to Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan dissent and subsequent resignation. In his dissenting note, he unequivocally called for the withdrawal of the show cause notice issued to Justice Mazahir Naqvi. Expressing concern over the council’s actions, he criticized the hasty and unconventional proceedings, deeming them contrary to established traditions and legal requirements. The looming possibility of other judges with similar reservations following suit in resigning could render the Supreme Court dysfunctional for a considerable period.
A political dimension becomes apparent in what is perceived as part of the London plan, as articulated by spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb. In response to the resignations of Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, she declared that the alleged conspiracy bench against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had reached its conclusion. This political interpretation adds a layer of complexity to the resignations, suggesting a connection to broader political agendas and machinations.
Press Secretary to the President(Rtd)
Former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France
Former MD, SRBC
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