In the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) review petition, Raja Abdul Ghafoor, the Advocate on Record (AOR) representing the stooge federation, withdrew himself as government’s counsel citing medical reasons, prompting the Supreme Court to threaten summoning none but puppet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani himself. The court said it seemed the government, being uninterested in the case, consider non-representation an easy way to dismiss the review plea. Threatening to cancel AOR’s licence, the court said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will be called if the advocate withdraws from the case. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the Attorney General (AG) to get instruction from the Prime Minister as “according to the definition, federation means PM”.
The apex court also said it seemed the prime minister had not been taken into confidence over the advocate’s decision (to withdraw). The Additional Attorney General (AAG) said the federation should be given the right to appoint a counsel of its choice. The Chief Justice said the federal government will not be given any special treatment. The court said that if no one else is to represent the government, the Attorney General should present arguments, but the AG said the government had not allowed him to do so. When the court asked the federation counsel’s application requesting separation from the case, the Solicitor General said the application had been misplaced. At this point, the SC issued show-cause notices to the AOR and the Solicitor General, saying how the application could be lost. The SC issued show cause notice to AOR Raja Abdul Ghafoor for withdrawing from the NRO review petition and Solicitor General, Ministry of Law, Syed Nasir Ali Shah for making the false statement.
When Attorney General for Pakistan Maulvi Anwar was asked to plead the case being the chief law officer of the court, he told the bench after break that he had sought advice from the government which needed time to ponder over the matter. The Chief Justice, heading a 17-member bench, asked the AGP: “Why don’t you clearly state that the federation has shown distrust in you.” Justice Javed asked: “Are you seeking advice on the issue of representation or on some other points.” The Chief Justice remarked that if the federal government has no confidence in the Attorney General, Additional Attorney General or Kamal Azfar, then who else is there to plead the case. “Courts are always interested in deciding cases on merit instead of withholding relief on any technicality, but it must always be subject to the Constitution and the law, therefore while discussing the scheme of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, it was observed that in fact it is the AOR who has principal duty to argue the case in absence of the ASC,“ the CJ said. Two judgments were also cited in this regard.
The learned AOR filed a copy of the letter, dated April 14, 2011, written by Solicitor General, Ministry of Law to him. The letter stated: “You were nominated as AOR to represent the Federation of Pakistan. Subsequently, you addressed a letter to this Division in which you expressed your inability to continue as Advocate on Record in the subject case owing to your indisposition. As such your nomination as Advocate on Record, as per your request, is withdrawn. You are requested to give letter of authority to Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi, Advocate on Record as per Supreme Court of Pakistan Rules, 1980.” The court observed that Raja Ghafoor has been regularly appearing before the court not only in this case but also in other cases in which he had filed his power on behalf of the litigants as AOR and prior to this he had never pointed out about his disassociation or withdrawal on account of health reasons. The court noticed perhaps it has happened in the background of the orders passed by this Court continuously, on 11.04.2011, 12.04.2011 and 14.04.2011, when the case was adjourned for one or the other reason on account of lack of interest by the Federation of Pakistan to pursue the case. The orders are self-explanatory.
It seems that on having notice, the learned AOR, instead of obeying the command of the Rules, under which in absence of ASC he is responsible to argue the case, got issued letter from the Solicitor General. It was shocking for the court that not only the letter but the file, containing the record of AOR, was missing. The court noted that in view of the importance of the issue, prima facie, statement so made by the solicitor is not acceptable, in as much as he failed to produce extract from the office diary maintained to receive mail coming from outside the office, therefore, Raja Abdul Ghafoor, AOR in this manner, however, managed not to argue the case. The AAG informed that court that he had not received fresh instruction except that the government be allowed to arrange another counsel. His request however was turned down. The court therefore asked Attorney General for Pakistan, the chief law officer of the country, whose appointment takes place under Article 100 of the Constitution and who also enjoys certain powers envisaged under Article 57 of the Constitution, to argue the case because he had remained associated with it.
Maulvi Anwar said he was not the AGP at that time, he was invited to assist the Court in terms of Order XXVII CPC, but as in the interest of justice, the Court is trying its best to proceed with the matter. The Chief Justice said he was one of the advocates in whom the Government/Federation had trust and who can address the Court. He sought time for instructions. The court issued show cause notice to Raja Abdul Ghafoor to explain as to why his name be not removed from the roll of the Advocates-on-Record in terms of Order IV rule 31 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 and to Nasir Shah why he made an incorrect statement before the Court, as a result whereof he had not only embarrassed the whole institution, but also the federal government. Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Islamabad police submitted a report in the Supreme Court regarding threats to Kamal Azfar. The case hearing was adjourned for a day.