Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Tuesday expressed annoyance over the formation of a commission by the government for protecting the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from ‘interference’ by ‘outside institutions’.
A three-member Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was hearing a suo motu notice taken on the commission’s formation to probe NAB chairman’s letter to the president.
The court ordered that concerned documents be presented before it to determine who ordered the commission’s formation.
The chief justice said NAB Chairman Admiral (r) Fasih Bokhari was already facing contempt charges over his letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, adding that the matter of the commission would also be analysed with the existing charges.
He said events surrounding the notification reflected that the government believed the judiciary to be in subordination of the executive.
The Law joint secretary told the court during the hearing that the notification for the formation of the commission, comprising Supreme Court judges Mukhtar Junejo and Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, was issued following the presidential reference, adding that the notification, however, had been withdrawn.
The chief justice said the notification reflected that the judiciary was a subordinate body of the executive, which was unfortunate. He said the prime minister had sought opinion on the letter and was asked to form a commission, adding that the matter of the commission would be seen as contempt of court.
The chief justice said strict action would be taken against anyone who tried to undermine the court and that the patience of the court was being constantly tested.
The hearing was adjourned later.
Less than an hour before it completed its five-year term on March 16, the government formed a commission to probe allegations of “persistent interference by outside institutions” into the workings of NAB.
According to the notification issued late on Saturday by the Law and Justice Division, signed by Senior Joint Secretary Sohail Qadeer Siddiqui, a two-member commission comprising former SC judges Mukhtar Junejo and Nawaz Abbasi was formed to look into the matter and submit a report in the next few weeks.
The commission had to start its probe within a week of the issuance of the notification, and had to submit its report within four weeks.
The terms of reference of the commission, listed in the notification, were to examine “whether any outside institution or any individual in such institution other than NAB can act as investigator directly or indirectly in cases under the NAB ordinance, 1999”, whether it/he can “override provisions of the NAB ordinance…by assuming/arrogating powers of the chairman”, or whether it/he “has overstepped their jurisdiction in violation of clause (2) of Article 175” of the constitution.
Although the notification, did not name any government institution, it was believed the commission would be investigating allegations against the Supreme Court contained in a letter written by Fasih Bokhari to the president.
In a hard-hitting letter addressed to his appointing authority, the president, Fasih Bokhari had cast serious doubts over the role of the apex court that he said “could be seen as pre-poll rigging”.
The letter, dated January 27, was dispatched from the chairman’s home address in Chak Shahzad Farms, Park Road, and later released to the media. Bokhari directly accused members of the superior judiciary of trying to influence the outcome of the coming general election.