CJ’s Directives About Dr Zafar Mirza Set A Wrong Precedent: Legal Analysts
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed ordered the federal government to remove Dr Zafar Mirza as Special Assistant to the PM on Health over his ‘unsatisfactory performance’ during the coronavirus outbreak in the country. He made these remarks while hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the government’s response to the pandemic.
The apex court remarked, “There is an army of ministers and advisors in place but no work is being done.” The top judge said that the ‘corrupt people’ had been made advisor to PM Imran. “Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet has become ineffective. I am sorry to say this but the premier has distanced himself [from the coronavirus crisis],” CJP Gulzar remarked, to which the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan replied that PM Imran was an ‘honest man’ and the government was making ‘sincere efforts’ to combat the pandemic.
In the written order, however, the court did not mention CJ’s statement about removal of Dr Zafar Mirza.
The aforementioned directives and remarks of the apex court under the command of CJP Gulzar Ahmed have generated the old debate of judicial activism versus judicial restraint among the political and legal quarters.
Naya Daur spoke to legal and political analysts to get their opinion on this development.
Former law minister Khalid Ranjha termed the suo motu as ‘judicial activism’ and said that the CJP’s first suo motu action does not come under the jurisdiction of Article 184(3) of constitution of Pakistan ‘in true sense’. When asked about the legal implication of SC’s ‘verbal orders’ to remove Dr Mirza, he said: “The government is not obliged to follow the directives of Supreme Court, as the court has not issued an order in writing.”
However, he was of the opinion that Dr Mirza should not have been appointed as SAPM in the first place. “There are already many differences within the ranks of PTI and its coalition partners over the issue of appointing ‘non-elected’ individuals on top posts,” he added.
Senior journalist and President of Press Association of Supreme Court Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, when contacted, criticised what he termed the apex court’s ‘intervention in the domain of executive affairs’. He said it was not a good precedent to set, “this is purely an executive matter,” the journalist said while talking about the federal government’s measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui quoted AG Sindh as saying [in frustration] to the SC bench during the hearing, “Supreme Court is welcome to run the government affairs then.”
When questioned about the apex court’s directive on SAPM Dr Mirza’s removal, he said that SC should exercise judicial restraint instead of judicial activism in the current times of national crisis. “I agree with the AGP Khalid Jawed that removal of Dr Mirza at this moment will be ‘disastrous’ for Pakistan.”
The writer is a student of Masters in Development Journalism at University of the Punjab and can be reached on Twitter @jazibrehmankhan.