Imran Khan fourth prime minister who appeared before Supreme Court
Four prime ministers, belonging to three different political parties, appeared before the Supreme Court in different situations in the past one decade and behaved differently – according to their respective natures and interests.
The player-turned-politician Imran Khan made his maiden appearance before the country’s top court on Wednesday (November 10) after being summoned in connection with the 2014 Army Public School tragedy, the real culprits of which remain untraced or proceeded against even after seven years of the tragic incident. No action has been taken against those in authority at the time.
Some 147 people, 132 of them children, had been killed when militants stormed the APS-Warsak School, in Peshawar.
Imran Khan, who is also chairman of the ruling PTI, answered all probing questions asked by the bench members and assured them that his government would comply with their orders.
Wondering that those in charge of the security at that time were now enjoying their lives and other perks and privileges upon retirement, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed ordered the federal government to take action against those who showed negligence in the APS tragedy.
The prime minister assured the apex court that the federal government would definitely take action on whatever order it was given by the apex court against the negligent officials. He said that he believed in rule of law and there was no sacred cow in the country.
However, the prime minister stressed that without any finding in the inquiry commission, the government could not take action against individuals, who were being nominated by the parents of deceased children.
The attitude could be categorized as compliant.
Mian Nawaz Sharif was also summoned by the apex court during his second term in 1997 as the country’s chief executive.
A confrontationist by nature, the industrialist-turned politician got the court stormed in November 1997 right at a time when the court was in session, hearing contempt proceedings against Mr Sharif. All judges left the courtroom, fearing for their lives.
The attack by party leaders and workers raised tensions between the government and the judiciary.
About half a dozen party leaders including Akhtar Rasool, Mian Munir, Tariq Aziz, Sardar Naseem and Chaudhry Naseem were disqualified for politics for life because of their involvement in the attack. (However, through a subsequent constitutional amendment the disqualification was reduced to five years).
This attitude was total defiance.
Compared to the two counterparts belonging to rival parties, PPP’s Yousaf Reza Gilani sacrificed his office of prime minister in 2012 but did not write a letter to the Swiss government regarding corruption charges against then-president Asif Ali Zardari despite Supreme Court’s order. He was disqualified for five years, an action that added to the prestige of the leader from Multan. For him loyalty to the party was more important than compliance with the court orders, a stance unbecoming of the country’s prime minister who was under oath to act according to the constitution.
It was because of his ‘loyalty’ at the time that the PPP got him elected as a Senator and then as leader of the opposition in the upper house.
This attitude was more self-serving.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had completed Yousaf Reza Gilani’s remaining term as prime minister.
A PPP loyalist from Gujjar Khan too had been called by the Supreme Court on the same issue.
Raja assured the bench that he would write the letter in accordance with the court orders.
He had also appeared before the top court in the rental power houses case.
On Wednesday, the top court called Imran Khan after an interaction with the attorney-general for Pakistan on the APS issue. The AGP had failed to come up with satisfactory answers to the questions asked by judges.
The premier appeared before the court and answered all questions after which he returned to his office.
Now the government would carry out its obligations during the next few weeks.
As CJP he had taken up a suo motu a notice on the worsening law and order situation and sectarian killings in Punjab. He had admonished the administration for not ensuring the life and security of people.
The PML-N government took the move of the chief justice as an infringement on the role of the executive.
The conflict between the two institutions sharpened when the government passed an anti-terrorism law in August, establishing a summary trial court despite the apex judiciary's disapproval.
Justice Shah had warned the government that the summary trial court was a parallel judicial system and did not fulfil a fair and judicious trial requirement. On the other hand, the government defended the step, saying it was necessary to counter terrorism and restore law and order in the country.
There was also another reason for tension between the PM and the CJP.
On August 17, 1997, a few days after the passage of the controversial anti-terrorism law, Justice Shah sent a list of five judges of different high courts to the government for their elevation to the SC. He wanted the appointments made at the earliest to dispose of the massive backlog of cases.
However, the PML-N government did not respond to his recommendations despite the passage of the mandatory one month. It had reservations about a couple of those recommended for judicial jobs, something unacceptable to the CJP.
Instead of complying with his order, the government issued an ordinance in September reducing the strength of the SC from 17 to 12.
The step amounted to outmanoeuvring the judiciary, making new appointments unnecessary.
The Supreme Court Bar Association challenged the ordinance in the apex court terming it a move aimed to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The apex court took up the petition for an immediate hearing. Fearing an adverse ruling by an annoyed court, the government withdrew the ordinance.
The subsequent developments led to the resignation of Mr Farooq Leghari as president and removal of Justice Shah from his position.
In fact, the judiciary was divided into two camps.