ISLAMABAD - Sensing possible conviction at the hands of Supreme Court for showing disregard to the courts’ directives by not holding the much-delayed local government elections in the cantonment localities, a top defence babu is desperately trying to save his job he would lose if held guilty.
In the light of related provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan, Pakistan Penal Code and Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (r) Asif Yasin Malik would be facing six-month imprisonment or would be liable to pay a fine of 100,000 rupees or both besides his removal from the incumbent position, if convicted by the apex court. The SC has recently initiated contempt proceedings against the secretary defence for defying the court orders in holding the LG elections in cantonment boards (CBs) and seemingly resorting to delaying tactics in this regard.
Reportedly, the panicked secretary defence is making extensive consultations with his legal team headed by Iftikhar Gillani Advocate to avoid conviction. “These days general sahib spends most of his time in finding a way out of this mess,” a source close to the former military man told this correspondent on Wednesday.
“Let’s hope these hard times are over soon but it looks quite impossible,” the insider believed.
Talking to The Nation, Colonel (r) Inam-ur Rahim Advocate said that the secretary’s removal from service was inevitable if he was convicted. “He would lose his job immediately. It’s beyond any shred of doubt that the government functionaries no longer remain public servants the moment they face conviction.”
Regarding conviction as result of contempt of court, Rahim referred to the ouster of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and said, “If a PM can be removed on contempt proceedings, why can’t secretary defence be? The influential would stop respecting the law until and unless they face the consequences of flouting the court orders.”
Inam-ur Rahim also recalled that the former SC judge Justice Afzal Zulla had ordered the imprisonment of one Shahid Orakzai for making contemptuous remarks during the proceedings of a case. Orakzai, he said, was released after tendering an unconditional apology.
Under the existing laws, the secretary defence would be entitled to file a review petition if sentenced by the court. According to Rahim, the possibility for the SC to change its decision in review petition stands extremely slim.
The Section (5) (1) of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 states, any person who commits contempt of court shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to six months simple imprisonment, or with fine, which may extend to Rs 100,000, or with both.
Section 5 (2) (A) states, a person accused of having committed contempt of court may, at any stage, submit an apology and the court, if satisfied that it is bonafide, may discharge him or remit his sentence.
Col (r) Inam says, apology from a government servant convicted on the charges of contempt of court does not result in the reinstatement of his job. “Contempt is a very serious offence, it takes away job.”
Secretary Defence Asif Yasin Malik recently ‘apologised’ to the SC for not having conducted the LG elections in the CBs. Twice had the secretary pledged before the SC to hold the LG polls in the CBs but did not live up to his commitment, each time.
In exercise of powers under Section 17 (3) of Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, the SC had fixed the date of November 4 (coming Monday) for framing charges against the former general.
“If, after giving the alleged contemner an opportunity of a preliminary hearing, the court is prima facie satisfied that the interest of justice so requires, if shall fix a date for framing a charge in open court and proceed to decide the matter either on that date, or on a subsequent date or dates, on the basis of basis of affidavits, or after recording evidence,” this section states. On July 2 this year, the secretary defence had affirmed in writing before a three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to hold LG elections in the 53 cantonments of Pakistan by September 15, a deadline that was never met.
In September, the secretary again made a commitment before the SC to hold the cantonment polls in November’s first week. He misinformed a meeting summoned by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on September 10 that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the summary of the draft seeking amendments in the Cantonment Ordinance 2002 and sent it to President Mamnoon Hussain, while no such approval was given by the premier who had formed  a 12-member committee to recommend amendments in the said ordinance.
Following this development, Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmad Khan had written to Attorney General of Pakistan Munir A Malik on September 11 that any further delay in the promulgation of the ordinance would be in violation of the SC judgment and the commission would not be able to hold the elections by November’s first week. The 12-member committee has made some recommendations to reduce the military’s sweeping powers in running the CBs affairs. However, due to the apparently non-complying attitude of the MoD and General Headquarters (GHQ), the military’s input in these recommendations could not be incorporated and the summary seeking these amendments is yet to be put up before the PM for approval.