Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while hearing the case of memo controversy, remarked on Monday that failure to respond to allegations could constitute admission. On the other hand, Farhatullah Babar, President’s spokesman, has stated that the federation’s response to the court must be construed to contain the comments of the President, the Prime Minister as well as the cabinet. The presidential spokesman’s contention ought to have come before the Supreme Court through the Attorney General, and not left to the court to guess. The President has not been able to file a reply so far, because of his recent illness, which made him the only one of the state functionaries who had not filed his reply, although he had been asked by the court to do so.

There are two issues with the position taken by the spokesman. First, it must be kept in mind that replies were filed by the Director-General ISI and the Chief of Army Staff. This did not imply that the army or the ISI were not part of the government headed by the Prime Minister, but that these individuals had to explain their own actions, and that reply was not considered sufficient for them. In the same way, the President’s person is involved in the case, and he has a personal position to explain. He may have some points to make which overlap with the Prime Minister’s reply. However, at the same time, the President’s position in this case is such that not only would he be well advised to file a reply, but he should be represented separately from the Prime Minister. It should also be noted that there is another opportunity afforded to the President to file a reply, because the apex court on Monday directed the petitioners and all the respondents to file item-wise comments. Since that indicates that court was not satisfied with the earlier replies, the President cannot rely on the Prime Minister’s reply anyhow.

If indeed the President feels that the Prime Minister’s reply is his, this should be expressed to the court, or he could merely file the same reply. He must not create a needless confrontation by any disobedience of the highest court in the land. The memogate affair is tangled and serious enough already, and needs no further complications of such a procedural nature. If the presidential spokesman’s statement is based on legal advice, the President should seek less confrontational advice.