Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge

Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge
Pervez Musharraf’s supporters protest in Lahore on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 21 December 2019

Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge

Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge
  • The government had criticized the wordings of the ruling, saying it would file a reference against the judge in the Supreme Judicial Council

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council said on Friday it would file a petition in the Supreme Court to defend a judge who wrote the verdict in the high treason case against the country’s former leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The government had criticized the wordings of the ruling, saying it would file a reference against the judge in the Supreme Judicial Council.

Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth’s order in the detailed judgment released on Thursday drew widespread criticism for his instruction that the authorities “drag” Musharraf’s “corpse” to D-Chowkin Islamabad and hang it for three days, should he die before the death sentence handed to him be carried out.

The government announced shortly after the release of the judgment that it would move the council — a constitutional body authorized to hear cases of misconduct against the members of the country’s superior judiciary — against Justice Seth for his “despicable” observation in the judgment.

“We will challenge the government’s reference against Justice Seth in the Supreme Court, and defend his verdict in the case,” Syed Amjad Shah, vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, the country’s top regulatory body of lawyers, told Arab News on Friday.

He said that the government’s “mala fide intent” against the judge was exposed by its stance against the verdict. “The government has the prerogative to file a reference against any judge, but under the law it cannot be entertained,” he said.

Shah said the government and other aggrieved parties can file a petition in the Supreme Court against the ruling, but “cannot get a judge removed” through the Supreme Judicial Council on the basis of a judgment.

Musharraf, the 76-year-old former military ruler of Pakistan was handed the death sentence on Tuesday in absentia as he currently resides in Dubai and is undergoing treatment for multiple ailments. He seized power in October 1999 in a bloodless military coup, and remained there until 2008.

The court’s senior lawyers said it was a lengthy and complicated process to file a reference against any judge of the superior judiciary and then get him removed for misconduct, or for physical or mental incapacity.

“The government apparently wants to offset pressure from different sides by filing the reference,” Habibullah Khan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court, told Arab News. “The government wants to show it has adopted a legal course against the judge who used graphic reference in the Musharraf ruling.”

The Supreme Judicial Council, he said, consisted of five members — the chief justice of the Supreme Court, its next two most senior judges and two senior high court judges.

The council may initiate a probe at the request of the president or on its own, if it suspects that a judge may be incapable of properly performing their duties due to physical or mental incapacity, or misconduct.

“If a judge is charged with any offense, he is removed by the president,” he said. “But in Justice Seth’s case, the government is not in a position to establish a cogent case against him.”

However, political analysts said the government was left with no option but to file a reference against the judge after the ruling against the former chief of the all-powerful military.

“The government is trying to save face by moving against the judge,” Zebunnisa Burki, a political analyst, told Arab News. “The government is caught: It can neither support the verdict nor oppose it openly.”

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World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

Updated 30 min 46 sec ago

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row
  • Letter sent to Afghan president comes amid corruption claims linked to new government controls on public-private partnerships

KABUL: The World Bank has threatened to close the taps on $200 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if Kabul fails to share banking sector data.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday said that the World Bank had warned the country’s President Ashraf Ghani that it would halt its assistance if the information was not forthcoming.
In a letter dated Nov. 23, Henry G. Kerali, the World Bank’s country director for Afghanistan, mentioned issues that “remain to be resolved” and “may impact” the bank’s capacity to disburse the full amount of $200 million.
The issues included the World Bank’s inability to obtain banking data from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank.
“The letter has actually been addressed to the president, and copies of it have been sent to relevant offices. The issue will be resolved in the coming week,” finance ministry spokesman, Shamroz Khan Masjidi, told Arab News.
“In the past, we would have shared a number of non-sensitive banking data with the World Bank. Now, a misunderstanding has appeared with the central bank which has not shared it with it (the World Bank) … the issue will be resolved.” The World Bank’s Kabul office declined to comment on whether the letter, a copy of which has been seen by Arab News, was a warning to Ghani. In an equivocal statement issued on Wednesday, the lender said: “No letter from the World Bank to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been released to the public.” Ghani’s spokesman declined comment.
The World Bank’s purported threat comes amid complaints over increasing corruption after the presidential palace in recent months took control of public-private partnerships (PPP) from the Ministry of Finance through amendments to the country’s PPP law.
Reliant on international assistance, Afghanistan is considered one of the most corrupt countries.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction, in a letter on Nov. 11 said that the Afghan government “often makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than concrete actions that would reduce corruption, such as arresting powerful actors.” Even Ghani’s brother, Hashmat Ghani, spoke against the PPP law move. “Taking away PPP office and authority from the finance ministry has been a mistake. It should be reversed immediately,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.
Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan and International Monetary Fund adviser, said the World Bank’s letter was “not a good signal” for Afghanistan.
“The reason for which it is interrupting the payment is that the president wants to move a number of important state-owned enterprises and the management of PPP to the palace where there is no oversight of the parliament at the palace as opposed to the ministry (Finance Ministry),” he told Arab News.
“So, this is how corruption creeps in, and the international community is worried about what is going on and the World Bank expresses it in a diplomatic language in this letter.” Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a lawmaker from the parliamentary financial affairs committee, said: “The executive power, particularly, the presidency, has created another government of its special circle which deals with appointments and budget’s expenses. All the power lies with the president and without his knowledge they cannot do anything.” “This has been our concern and we have shared it with the donors and have asked them to prevent such wayward acts,” he added.
Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, denied the existence of any “circle” under the president. “These MPs, I am sure they know the whole process and the authority of government officials and the president on budget spending. Budget issues must not be politicized.
“The government sends details of the budget to the parliament in a very transparent way and they have the legal right to oversee the spending. It is an open budget system, there is no circle.”