Pakistan govt writes to court for commission on poll rigging charges

Pakistan govt writes to court for commission on poll rigging charges
This is the second such letter sent to the chief justice by the law secretary.

ISLAMABAD - Keeping up their end of the bargain a day after the PTI returned to parliament, the PML-N government has written to the Supreme Court asking that three judges be nominated to the judicial commission that will investigate allegations of rigging and malpractice in the 2013 general elections.

The one-page letter, written by Law Secretary Mohammad Raza Khan to Supreme Court Registrar Tahir Shahbaz, asks the judicial officer to place the request before Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk.

But legal experts remained unconvinced, and one senior lawyer told Dawn that the federal government's letter was an attempt by the government to use the apex court to do its political laundry. "Dragging the top court in the land into the middle of a political squabble will only demean the judiciary and shake the people's confidence in it," he said.

This is the second such letter sent to the chief justice by the law secretary. On Aug 13, 2014, soon after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed the government's willingness to ask the Supreme Court to appoint a three-judge inquiry commission in a televised address to the nation, Barrister Zafarullah Khan wrote a similar letter to the court.

"I respectfully convey the request of the federal government that the honourable chief justice of Pakistan may be pleased to nominate three honourable judges of the Supreme Court for the constitution of the commission pursuant to Section 2 of the General Elections 2013 Inquiry Commission Ordinance, 2015," says the latest letter.

Tuesday's letter was sent in a sealed envelope to the Supreme Court secretariat and later reached the office of the chief justice after President Mamnoon Hussain promulgated the Judicial Commission Ordinance 2015 on April 3.

On the previous occasion, the Supreme Court had preferred to keep its distance and despite the lapse of eight months, the court did not proceed on this front. This time around as well, the Supreme Court office is maintaining complete silence.

"If anything happens, the media will be informed of the development," was the only response from a senior officer of the court, on condition of anonymity.

But the question on everyone's mind is: will the second letter meet the same fate? Political leaders think otherwise.

PTI MNA Dr Arif Alvi, who was also involved in the drafting of the accord between the PML-N and PTI welcomed the federal government's letter to the apex court. Mr Alvi also expressed the hope that this time around, the court will not remain aloof to the request for a thorough investigation into allegations of electoral rigging.

"We are confident that this time the Supreme Court will take action as it is under tremendous pressure because of the popular and reasonable demand, which is of great national importance," he commented.

He said that the last time such a request was sent, the government did not pursue it in the same way. Besides, he said, the apex court was confused because the PTI was not agreeing to the terms of reference for the commission the government had suggested at that time and was probably waiting for clarity.

On the other hand, PML-N leader Mushahidullah Khan said the government had done what was required of it under the agreement.

"We can't do more than what has already been done, it is not in our hands," he commented when asked what his party's reaction would be if the court still chose to stay silent.

But he also said the government had given PTI a face-saving opportunity by writing the letter. "The demand for the judicial commission was only a cover for the schemes and conspiracies they had launched to dislodge a rightfully-elected government," he observed, recalling that international observers and NGOs had declared the last elections as the most transparent in the country's history.

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