In a unique move amidst festering political uncertainty, the government moved to placate nervous world capitals that it has no plans to take any “radical steps” which may exacerbate its ongoing row with the judiciary over the reopening of graft cases against the president.
A rare briefing took place at the foreign ministry on Thursday for diplomats stationed in Pakistan, during which Law Minister Farook H Naek attempted to dispel the impression that the country was heading towards any major constitutional or political crisis – particularly in regards to a lingering controversy over the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case, sources revealed.
The briefing – attended by envoys from the US, India, Afghanistan and other world capitals – came just a day after the Supreme Court gave newly inducted Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf two weeks to state whether he intends to write a letter to Swiss authorities or not.
The briefing, it is believed, was arranged in light of growing concerns in major international capitals about the future of democracy in the face of a bruising civil-judicial faceoff in the country.
Last week, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was ousted from power by the country’s top court in a similar case when he refused to write a letter to Swiss authorities regarding the reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The latest court direction has led to a flurry of speculations that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was considering several options to pre-empt the judiciary’s next move — including a constitutional amendment to curtail the Supreme Court’s powers to interpret constitutional issues, and set up a new federal judicial body to deal with such matters.
Following the court’s fresh deadline, the new prime minister held emergency talks with Law Minister Naek and Attorney General Irfan Qadir on Wednesday to discuss all available options to deal with the situation. The government, it is believed, is also contemplating changing the law of contempt to provide immunity to both the offices of the president and the premier.
However, a source, who attended Thursday’s briefing at the foreign office, said the law minister denied these speculations vehemently. “Pakistan is passing through a transition and every institution is trying to assert itself,” Naik was quoted as telling the diplomats.
He insisted that all issues would be settled within the constitutional framework.
An official statement said that the foreign ministry hosted a briefing for the heads of diplomatic missions on “foreign policy priorities of the government”. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke about the smooth transition to a newly-elected prime minister, and the government’s abiding commitment to strengthening democracy, it said.
The statement added that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was accompanied by Law Minister Naek, who, while briefing the diplomats, reiterated the government’s commitment to an “independent judicial system, and respect for rule of law”.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.