Speculations rife as PM meets CJP one-on-one

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— Abbasi reportedly assures CJP Nisar of govt’s support for judicial reforms while top judge promises to uphold law without ‘fear or favour’

— PML-N leader claims Nawaz Sharif tasked PM Abbasi to ‘seek some relief’ from CJP for Sharif family

 

ISLAMABAD: In a major development, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi held a two-hour-long one-on-one meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar at the latter’s chambers in the Supreme Court on Tuesday evening during which he assured the top judge of the government’s full support for his judicial reforms vision while the CJP promised to uphold the law without “fear or favour”.

It was the first breakthrough meeting between the heads of the executive and judicial organs of the state as the prime minister arrived at the SC without any protocol where he was greeted by the CJP himself at the judges’ gate. The CJP again came out of his chambers to escort the premier on his return.

Sources privy to details of the meeting told Pakistan Today that PM Abbasi showed keen interest in providing all possible assistance in revamping the judicial system of Pakistan as visualised by CJP Nisar.

“The PM assured the CJP that the government would provide all resources to the judiciary in order to enable it to provide speedy and inexpensive justice in addition to facilitating easy access of justice to the people. The premier also highlighted the difficulties of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the tax department on account of pendency of litigation involving revenue in different courts,” said the source, adding that CJP Nisar assured PM Abbasi that he would look into the matter and such litigation would be fast tracked.

PM Abbasi pledged full support for public interest litigation initiatives undertaken by CJP Nisar. He assured the CJP that all steps would be taken to materialise the CJP’s vision with respect to free education, public health, improvement in government hospitals with regard to the provision of quality and affordable health services, revamping medical education, especially in private medical colleges, provision of clean drinking water, better sanitation and protection of environment, etc.

“PM Abbasi informed CJP Nisar that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) had approved the National Water Policy which would help in the fruition of CJP’s efforts in that direction,” sources said.

The CJP assured the prime minister that the judiciary would continue to perform its constitutional duties “independently, fairly, transparently, without fear or favour and strictly in accordance with the law”.

The meeting came a day after the apex court dismissed a contempt petition against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif regarding noncompliance of court’s orders in the out of turn promotion case.

The meeting came amid speculation about a possible deal being negotiated between the ruling party and the state institutions, paving the way for a safe exit for the lifetime leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in corruption cases.

According to sources, the meeting took place on the request of Prime Minister Abbasi. The agenda of meeting was not shared with the media. However, a senior law officer told reporters that agenda of meeting was to discuss judicial reforms in the country.

According to sources, the meeting had not been scheduled before 5pm on Tuesday and the prime minister left a reception halfway in Kohat and rushed back to Islamabad as soon as he got the green signal for the meeting. Earlier, former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani also met with the CJP at the SC building to discuss the same issue.

A senior PML-N leader, asking not to be named, said that the meeting had taken place on the instructions of Nawaz Sharif who was seeking a safe exit as the NAB case was reaching its consolidation stage.

The source said that Shehbaz Sharif had recently held two consecutive meetings with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa to seek some relief for Nawaz Sharif and his family.

Sources said that the army chief had plainly informed Shehbaz Sharif that the military establishment could not play any role as the court cases were beyond the military’s domain. After a clear message from the military, Nawaz reportedly directed the prime minister to make a request to CJP Nisar to seek some relief for the Sharif family. The PM also asked the CJP to take notice of the alleged horse-trading in the recent Senate elections, the source said.

The source claimed that Nawaz had also asked PM Abbasi to ask the CJP to allow him exemption from appearing before the court so that he could visit his ailing wife, Kulsoom Nawaz in London.

PM Abbasi in his recent media interactions also dropped hints of the possibility of having dialogue with “all state institutions” for smooth functioning of the state machinery. In a recent interview, Abbasi said that there was a dire need to redefine the judicial and executive domains and added that no state institution should encroach upon another’s domain.

As a pressure tactic, the government circles also dropped a hint of moving a presidential reference against the top judges, expecting that judiciary might cave in.

Officials said that the meeting was a scheduled one and all arrangements had been made in advance and the judges’ block had been vacated for security purposes before the arrival of the premier. Sources said that the prime minister was served with tea and biscuits.

Nawaz Sharif had recently floated the idea of inter-institutional dialogue and had said that he was ready to sit down with the state institutions for a political dialogue to end the deadlock.

Such meetings between the heads of judiciary and executive are rare in the country’s history. Only two such meetings have been held in the last 10 years.

In 2007, the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz had visited the SC to meet former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry regarding the Pakistan Steel Mills case which had brought the judiciary and the executive on the warpath.

Later, Iftikhar Chaudhry had visited the prime minister’s house in February 2010 wherein the prime minister rescinded his decisions by withdrawing notifications of the government for the appointment of certain judges.

Consequently, Justice Saqib Nisar and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa of the Lahore High Court (LHC) had been elevated as judges of the SC, retired judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday was appointed as an ad hoc judge of the apex court while Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif was reinstated as the LHC chief justice.