Provisions key to restoration
MUBASHIR HASSANLAHORE-The joint news conference addressed by PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif at Islamabad on Tuesday was significant in many respects. While the two leaders made many things clear as to their future political strategy, they could not conceal their differences over the vital issue of deposed judges, though they insisted that there was no difference of opinion between them over the issue in question. As a matter of fact, the Tuesday meeting between the two party chiefs was nothing more than a reiteration of their earlier resolve to restore judges as per Murree declaration, as they widely differed over the modus operandi which still remains an issue to be resolved. Both Mr Zardari and Nawaz Sharif took no clear stance on questions asked by media men regarding the proposed constitutional package, especially with regard to fixation of tenure for the chief justice of Pakistan. They also could not come up with any clear-cut stance over 30-day time frame for restoration of the judges. Asif Zardari even went to the extent of saying that he did not approve of the idea of starting the count down in this regard. This shows that deadlock over the modus operandi of judges restoration still persisted as it was before start of the negotiations. It also transpired from their conversation with the media that two parties would wait for appropriate time to get rid of President Musharraf, and till that time, they would observe utmost patience. On this issue, Nawaz Sharif conceded to the view point taken by Mr Zardari, as until few days back the former does not seem to be in a mood to give more time to Pervez Musharraf to stay in the presidency, unlike his counterpart (Zardari) who is averse to the idea of confronting Musharraf at this stage. Another significant development was that two leaders vowed not to leave each other in any case, even if they fail to come to an amicable settlement over the issue of restoration of judges. It was an eye opener for those who are predicting an early end to the honeymoon period between the PPP and the PML-N. It was also made clear that resolution regarding restoration of judges would come first, and the constitutional package would be introduced later. Here, Nawaz Sharif seems to have prevailed upon Zardari, as the latter was previously insisting that resolution should follow the constitutional package. It was, however, evident from their talk with the media that judges would definitely be restored but their conduct would be governed by provisions of Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by the two parties. Zardari made it a point in his replies that no judge would be allowed in future to take oath under any PCO or any extra-constitutional arrangement, and hence won’t be allowed to validate the unconstitutional acts of any dictator. It was clear from replies made by Zardari that he had mentally prepared Nawaz Sharif to restore the judges in the light of provisions of the CoD, which would be included in the proposed constitutional package. The CoD lays down a clear mechanism regarding appointment and conduct of the judges, who should be appointed on the recommendations of commission headed by chief justice of Pakistan, who should essentially be a non-PCO judge. It would comprise chief justices of the provincial high courts who have not taken oath under the PCO, failing which the senior most judge of that high court who has not taken oath shall be the member. The Vice-Chairmen of Pakistan and Vice-Chairmen of Provincial Bar Association with respect to the appointment of judges to their concerned province would also be its members besides president of Supreme Court Bar Association, presidents of High Court Bar Associations of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta with respect to the appointment of judges to their concerned province. The Federal Minister for Law and Justice and the Attorney General of Pakistan would also be its members. As per the CoD provisions, the commission shall forward a panel of three names for each vacancy to the prime minister, who shall forward one name for confirmation to joint parliamentary committee for confirmation of the nomination through a transparent public hearing process. The joint parliamentary committee shall comprise of 50 per cent members from the treasury benches and the remaining 50 per cent from opposition parties based on their strength in the parliament nominated by respective parliamentary leaders.It is also mentioned in the relevant provision that no judge shall take oath under any Provisional Constitutional Order or any other oath that is contradictory to the exact language of the original oath prescribed in the Constitution of 1973.It also provides for an administrative mechanism for the prevention of misconduct, implementation of code of ethics, and removal of judges on such charges brought to its attention by any citizen through the proposed commission for appointment of Judges.The CoD also mentions formation a set of rules and procedures whereby, the arbitrary powers of the chief justices over the assignment of cases to various judges and the transfer of judges to various benches such powers shall be exercised by the Chief Justice and two senior most judges sitting together.