ISLAMABAD                  -             Newly appointed Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan Monday refused to appear before the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government in Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s petition against the presidential reference.

A 10-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial conducted hearing of identical petitions challenging the presidential reference against Justice Isa for allegedly not disclosing his foreign properties in wealth statements.

Besides the apex court judge, Pakistan Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association, Bar Councils & Association of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan and Abid Hassan Minto, and I A Rehman have also challenged the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. During the hearing, Justice Bandial welcomed the new AGP saying; “Welcome back to the court attorney general. You were occupying the office in 2018 as well.”

Then Khalid Khan filed an application saying that he cannot represent the federal government due to the conflict of interest. He sought time for preparation.

The court told the new AGP that the federation needs some lawyer who could fully focus on this case. As Ch Amir Rehman (Additional Attorney General) has been hearing the case, therefore, he could argue it.

The AGP said that he and Law Minister Farogh Naseem would be out of the country from March 15-20, therefore, the court may fix the case on March 24. Justice Bandial said as one of the members of the bench would not be available in that week, therefore, would hear it from March 30.

The law minister told that since he has been pleaded respondent in the petition then he be allowed to make arguments in this regard and also on behalf of the federation.

Justice Bandial said, “you are welcome.”

Justice Qazi Amin asked Farogh Naseem that he would have to relinquish charge as law minister. Farogh Naseem stated, therefore, he has requested the bench in this regard. “I am in the court’s hands and do what the court guides me.”

Supreme Court Bar Association President Syed Qalb-i-Hassan contended that since Farogh Naseem has rejoined law ministry, therefore, his practicing licence has been suspended as per Rule 108 (O) of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners & Bar Councils Rules, 1976.

Vice-Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Abid Saqi informed that a contempt petition has been filed against the former AJP and the law minister, but it is not before the bench as it could not be numbered. The bench ordered the SC office to number it and be fixed on the next date of hearing of Justice Qazi Faez petition.

Justice Bandial cited Surah Al-Hujurat verse 12, “Don’t proceed on ‘guman’ assumption because it is sin and also do not spy or backbite”.

He added, “I have read in the newspaper that my voice pitch was high in the last proceedings.” In order to persuade the PBC chief to forgive [law minister] the judge quoted Surah Imran verse 134, which says; ….who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.”

He added, “I did not realize that I have raised my voice therefore I suggest not go by ‘guman’ (assumption) and forgive.” Then, he asked Abid Saqi that if you have solid evidence then will hear you.

The vice-chief PBC told that he has no personal grievance or enmity with anyone but has filed the petition for the independence of the judiciary.

He said that spying of judges and covert surveillance has been accepted time and again which is illegal and unethical. The spying of citizens destroying our lives, he added.

Saqi continued, “The bar [PBC] has been struggling to protect the fundamental rights for the last 34 years.” He said when the prime minister could be sent packing because of contempt of court then no one should be spared.

Justice Bandial said the judiciary is sanctified. “We have to live in this world and face the criticism.”

Justice Maqbool Baqir told the PBC vice-chief that the bench is also concerned about the issue which he has raised.

The attorney general said he is also for the independence and integrity of not only the judges but also the judiciary, adding if ever there will be any suspicion regarding it he would not remain as AGP.

Later, the bench adjourned the hearing till March 30 for further proceedings.