The attorney general for Pakistan has written a letter to Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar requesting him to set the record straight on the observations made by Chief Justice of Pakistan (JCP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial about the country’s prime ministers during a court hearing last week.
CJP Bandial’s remarks had irked Senators from different parties and the Upper House erupted into uproar a day after the CJP was quoted by social media users as saying that there was only one honest prime minister in the country and that was Mohammed Khan Junejo. The mainstream media never attribute the words to the CJP though.
The attorney general in his letter to the law minister made it clear that the CJP’s observations were “misconstrued and misstated in the social media as if in the history of Pakistan only one Prime Minister [Mr. Muhammad Khan Junejo] was honest. However, no remark to this effect was made by the HCJP on 09.02.2023.” (brackets original)
The attorney general said that an incorrect narrative about the CJP’s observation was circulated on social media and the MPs ‘inadvertently and erroneously’ believed in it ‘without verification’. When the Senator ‘critically’ commented on misconstrued remarks it was reported widely in the national press, said the attorney general.
The country’s top law officer urged the law minister to “share the correct facts with your fellow Parliamentarians for setting the record straight.”
Bitter past and CJP’s observations
CJP Bandial was hearing a petition by Imran Khan’s PTI against a recent amendment to the accountability laws of the country – namely the NAB ordinance – when he broached the top of the dissolution of parliament.
Successive prime ministers were sent packing by presidents in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The CJP referred to two incidents from 1988 (when Mohammad Khan Junejo was removed) and from 1993 (when Nawaz Sharif lost power).
In the second case, the Supreme Court restored the National Assembly after the president dissolved it.
Parliamentarians in their speeches on February 10 claimed that the CJP’s remarks were unwarranted and had nothing to do with the case he was hearing.
However, a point raised during the court proceedings made the political history of parliament relevant. There was an argument that the PTI never opposed the NAB-related amendment in the Parliament and now that it was no longer in the National Assembly it wanted the court to rule on a piece of legislation.
The CJP also said that the parliament had ‘deliberately’ been kept empty and the legislations being passed were now being seen as questionable.
He recalled how the parliaments were dissolved in the past.
The attorney general in his letter to the law minister said that he was ‘personaly present in the court Room No. 1’ during the proceedings when the CJP mentioned how in 1993 the then chief justice of Pakistan had regretted the non-restoration of the National Assembly in 1988.
“In fact, the HCJP had recalled the regret express[ed] by the then cheif justice of Pakistan (justice Nasim Hassan Shah) in 1993 in [Nawas Sharif vs President of Pakistan] case about the Supreme Court proceeding ahead with the general elections instead of restroing the National Assembly in 1988.”
The CJP went on to comment that then Prime Minister Junennu was “a very good and independent man who was removed through Article 58(2)b).”