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CJ Iftikhar names judges for Shahzad, Abbottabad probe commissions

21 June, 2011

CJ Iftikhar names judges for Shahzad, Abbottabad probe commissions
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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Monday approved the names of Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Saqib Nisar as heads of the Osama bin Laden and Saleem Shahzad commissions respectively.

The government had last Saturday requested the chief justice to name SC judges to conduct judicial investigations into the two incidents and proposed the two names to head the commissions.

To probe the May 2 US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, the government had earlier announced a five-member commission, headed by SC Judge Justice Javed Iqbal. The commission also included the names of Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, Major Gen (retd) Ahmed Abbas Khan and Ashraf Jahangir Qazi.

The government had also proposed a five-member commission to probe the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad to be headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar. Other members include Chief Justice of the Federal Shariat Court, Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan, Punjab additional inspector general (investigation), the Federal Union of Journalists’ president and deputy inspector general of police, Islamabad.

A Supreme Court statement said the Government of Pakistan had approached the honourable court on Sunday, June 19, 2011 by sending two letters at the residence of the registrar. The government, through the Secretary Ministry of Law, had approached the registrar to request the chief justice to appoint judges of the Supreme Court to head the inquiry commissions to look into the Abbottabad and Saleem Shahzad incidents. The letters were put up before the chief justice on Monday.

“The Government of Pakistan, vide letter dated 18.6.2011, had requested that the CJ nominate an SC judge to act as president of the commission, to be constituted under section 3 of Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 (Act VI of 1956), to probe the Abbottabad incident.

The court carefully considered the request and although the Court was already short of its sanctioned strength and judges are committed to administer justice even beyond their capacity, keeping in view the national interest angle of the case, Justice Javed Iqbal, was nominated as president of the Abbottabad Commission. It is expected that the competent authority, while nominating other members, will also consider their status quo, the position of the president of the Commission, who is a judge of the apex court.”

The court order further said that the Government of Pakistan, vide letter dated 19.6.2011, requested that an SC judge be nominated to act as president of the commission, to be constituted under section 3 of Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 (Act VI of 1956), to probe the mysterious assassination of Saleem Shahzad.

In the meanwhile, Constitution Petition No 48/2011 was also filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which now has been disposed of vide order dated 20.6.2011, in view of the request received from the government.

Earlier, a three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim, heard the petition, filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), seeking the formation of a high-powered judicial commission to probe the abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzad.

The court announced that the nomination of an SC judge who would head the commission would be sent to the government on Monday and disposed of the petition. During the course of hearing, the CJ observed that the court had received the government’s consultation letter for the inquiry commission. The chief justice remarked, “We want that every matter should not come to the court, and the government should also perform what it can within its parameter.”

He said the apex court would appoint the head of the commission to investigate Shahzad’s killing but the government would appoint rest of the members. The chief justice said the scope of the commission would be enhanced but it would not be given much time to prepare the investigation report. He observed that the commission should also take the reservations of the journalists’ community into consideration.

The journalists are now seeking an extension in the commission’s mandate, saying that the pattern of harassment of journalists should also be investigated as 70 journalists had been killed in the recent past.

Asma Jehangir and Munir A Malik, representing the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), submitted that the commission should not only be confined to probing the murder of Shahzad, but the scope of the commission should also be widened so that it could look into other incidents of journalists’ killings.

Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq and counsel for the government Dr Babar Awan also supported the PFUJ lawyers’ stance and submitted that the government was ready to widen the scope of the commission in this regard. They said the government, all of its agencies and the ISPR had also supported the constitution of the commission.

PFUJ counsel Munir Malik told the court the Shahzad case was a matter of basic human rights, and it should be seen in a broader perspective. The chief justice announced that the Law Ministry had written a letter to the court to nominate a sitting judge of the SC to head the commission to probe the murder. He said the government’s letters, bearing the names of the judges proposed as commission members, had been received. He said the case should proceed only if the PFUJ and government agreed to each other’s demands.

Asma Jehangir requested that the terms of reference of the commission be clearly spelled out. She also said that if the application was disposed of, the petitioner should have the right to make a fresh application if the need arises. Earlier, Asma Jehangir had questioned the manner in which the commission was appointed, terming it contrary to established principles of law.

The CJ remarked that everything should not come to the court, and the government should also do its job. He said injustices against journalists should be stopped, adding that another incident of torture of a journalist had been reported in Islamabad.

The chief justice remarked that both the commissions, on Abbottabad and Saleem Shahzad, would work under the Supreme Court judges.

In pursuance of the court’s earlier order of June 17, the inspector generals of police (IGPs), Islamabad and Punjab, also presented their respective reports regarding the investigation of the case. Acting Inspector General of Police, Islamabad, Bani Amin Khan, in his report submitted that the investigating team was making all out efforts to trace the accused involved in Shahzad’s killing and was investigating every possible aspect of the case. He assured the court that no stone would be left unturned to arrest the accused persons.

Earlier, on June 17, the court had ordered the secretaries of Interior, Information and Law to submit their replies to questions raised in the petition. The court had also ordered the Punjab and Islamabad IGPs to file their reports about the outcome of the investigations held so far. The court also ordered the submission of the entire record of investigations into Shahzad’s killing and asked government functionaries concerned to explain their position on the petition moved by the PFUJ.

The government had constituted a five-member commission, headed by Supreme Court Judge Saqib Nisar, to investigate Shahzad’s killing, but Justice Nisar declined to become a part of the commission because neither he nor the chief justice of Pakistan were consulted by the government before his appointment.

End.

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