Fasih’s selection may cause executive-judiciary split


The appointment of Admiral (r) Fasih Bukhari as the new chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) may lead to another row between the executive and the judiciary, as Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has not been consulted in the appointment process, as required under various judgments of the apex court.
According to various verdicts of the Supreme Court, the consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) in appointment of NAB head is mandatory; however the government has once again ignored the very mandatory requirement. Legal and constitutional experts see it as a deliberate mistake on the part of executive, which may lead to yet another crisis.
According to Supreme Court Bar Association former vice-president Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, another Deedar Hussain Shah-like case is in the making, as many recent judgments of the Supreme Court reiterate that consultation with the CJP is a must for a new appointment.
He said in its March 10 authoritative judgment on the petitions wherein appointment of Justice (r) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah as chairman NAB was challenged, the Supreme Court had closed all doors for the Presidency as well as the government, present or future, to turn the anti-corruption apparatus into a tamed body through a handpicked person, by clearly concluding that consultation with the CJP was a must in the appointment of NAB chairman.
He said the judgment left no room for the ruling elite to continue using NAB to cover corruption instead of curbing it. Justifying the role of the chief justice as one of the consultees, the judgment said: “The CJP comes in as a consultee in his capacity as a guardian and defender of the constitutional and legal rights of the people at large. The CJP can also play a salutary role in the matter of such appointment, particularly when there is a serious difference of opinion between the other consultees over the proposed appointment of the NAB chairman.”
“We reiterate the importance of consulting the Chief Justice of Pakistan in the matter of appointment of NAB chairman and expect that the recommendations and suggestions repeatedly made by the apex court in that regard through different judgments handed down by it from time to time will be given effect to in all future appointments to that office. We entertain no manner of doubt that anybody interested in making an honest and good appointment to that office would not feel shy of consulting the CJP in that connection,” the judgment stated.
According to the verdict, the consultation of the CJP over the appointment of NAB chairman was introduced in Asfandyar Wali case but this provision was not made part of the legislation. However in the case of Dr Mubashir Hassan and others versus Federation of Pakistan and others, the apex court had reiterated its earlier recommendation and suggestion in the matter of such appointment. And it had once again been repeated by the apex court in the case of ‘The Bank of Punjab versus Haris Steel Industries (Pvt) Ltd and others’.
The court had observed: “Consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan are, in the developing scenario, essentially meant for separate noble and laudable purposes which are both directed towards achieving the very objects for which the NAB was established, that is elimination of corruption by persons holding public offices and achievement of such objects through a process which is just, fair, impartial and even-handed.”
The court in its verdict had noted with some concern that the office of the Prosecutor-General Accountability in the NAB was lying vacant for the last six months, with no serious effort having been made to fill that important slot, and had directed that a regular appointment to the said office be made without further loss of time. However, despite lapse of over seven months, the office is still vacant, whereas the much-delayed appointment of NAB head also disputed.
Meanwhile, President Zardari has rejected the assertions of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan over the nomination of Admiral (r) Fasih Bukhari as new head of the NAB, saying that his choice was based solely on merit and in accordance with the law. In his letter wrote to Nisar, Zardari claimed that Nisar had not commented on the profile and integrity of the nominee.
According to the president’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, the president while referring to the implementation of superior courts’ verdicts mentioned in the letter of the opposition leader, said that a bill proposed by the federal government was pending in the parliament, which was being deliberated upon by the members.