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Monday, May 4, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court judges on Monday debated the mechanism that would be needed to declare Pakistan a secular state. Hearing constitutional petitions against the 18th and 21st Constitutional Amendments, a 17-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk questioned how the country would go about declaring itself a secular state if there is a popular demand for change.

The chief justice questioned whether such a process could be carried out through a constituent assembly. “How can the constituent assembly be formed at present stage?” “If a political party whose manifesto supported such a declaration comes to power, how does that party plan on making the country secular?” Justice Mian Saqib Nisar questioned.

Proposing a solution, Hamid Khan, counsel for different bar associations suggested that it could be carried out through a referendum. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa also questioned whether parliament had the power to pass an amendment to the Constitution which would declare the country secular.

Taking a page out of history, Justice Khosa said the country was created in the name of Islam in 1947 and later reaffirmed its commitment to being an Islamic state in 1949 with the Objectives Resolution, which was also supported by East Pakistan. However, Khosa pointed out how East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) went on to declare their country a secular state after partition. Later, Bangladesh attempted to declare the country an Islamic state through a constitutional amendments, but the Bangladesh Supreme Court annulled the amendment.

Citing the example of Turkey, Justice Khosa added people and their ideologies change with the passage of time. However, Jutsice Khawaja believed changes in Bangladesh and Turkey were rooted in revolution.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

ISLAMABAD: An additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) in Rawalpindi on Saturday allowed property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain to use Bahria as the brand name for his housing project till April 14, the next date of hearing.
Mohammad Ashraf, the ADSJ, issued the order while hearing an appeal filed by Malik Riaz against the verdict given by Civil Judge Nadiatuz Zuhra Naqvi on March 27, in which she stopped Malik Riaz from using Bahria as the brand name for his housing project.

Judge Naqvi had given the single order while hearing three identical petitions - two filed by Bahria Foundation and the third by Hussain Global, a property firm linked to Malik Riaz.
The three petitions were filed over the Bahria name issue that had been lingering on since 2002. Civil Judge Zuhra Naqvi had also set aside the stay order obtained by Malik Riaz in 2002.

“On the next date of hearing, the Bahria Foundation, a subsidiary of Pakistan Navy, would file its response to the petition filed by Malik Riaz,” a lawyer associated with the case told Dawn.
The Bahria Foundation had pleaded to restrain Malik Riaz from using the word Bahria for his housing scheme and sought damages from the property tycoon.

The third petition filed by Malik Riaz alleged that the naval officials forced him to sign an agreement according to which he was bound to give up the Bahria brand name.
Since 1996, Malik Riaz with the consent of Bahria Foundation was using the naval nomenclature for his housing project.

In 2000, the foundation stopped him from using ‘Bahria’ for his housing society and also signed an agreement with the property tycoon in this regard on February 24 of the same year.
However, in 2002, Malik Riaz filed an application with the local court alleging that he was forced to sign the agreement.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

RAWALPINDI: Malik Riaz Hussain’s real estate empire was dealt a blow on Friday after the property tycoon lost a long-drawn legal battle over the right to the name ‘Bahria Town’. A local court in Rawalpindi, handing down a verdict in the over a decade old case between the naval subsidiary Bahria Foundation and Malik Riaz, accepted the former’s petition – originally filed in 2002 – to restrain the magnate from using the name ‘Bahria’ for his housing society.
“We will appeal this order at the next appellate forum accordingly,” Qaiser Qadeer Qureshi, Mr Riaz’s legal adviser, said.
He told Dawn: “So far, the court announced a short order and are awaiting a detailed verdict. After examining that, Bahria Town will file an appeal.”

According to Mr Qureshi, the appellate forum could be the high court or a district and sessions court. According to the details of the case, Hussain Global – a property firm linked to Malik Riaz – signed an agreement with the Bahria Foundation in 1996 to set up Bahria Town.
The foundation was established in January 1982 as a charitable trust under the Endowment Act 1890. The Bahria Foundation Committee of Administration (COA), headed by the chief of the naval staff, consists of eight members, including the foundation’s managing director.

Under the agreement that Mr Riaz signed with the foundation, the naval subsidiary was offered a 10 per cent share for the use of the name ‘Bahria’ for the private housing scheme. The remaining amount was divided between Hussain Global, Malik Riaz and his family members.
In the year 2000, the foundation asked Mr Riaz not to use the ‘Bahria’ name for his housing society and on Feb 24 of the same year, the property mogul signed an agreement with the Bahria Foundation to the same effect.

Agreeing not to use the name permanently, Mr Riaz’ people did request that they may be allowed to retain the name for another 18 months.
However, in 2002, Malik Riaz obtained a stay order from a local court, alleging that Bahria Foundation has forced him to sign the agreement.
Since then, the tycoon has expanded his housing project manifold and, to date, has sold a massive number of housing and commercial units in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Bahria Foundation counsel Sheikh Khizer Rashid told Dawn that the foundation never pressurised Malik Riaz and he agreed not to use the ‘Bahria’ name of his own free will.
“He signed the deal in the presence of the company’s registrar,” he said.
According to him, Mr Riaz did not appear in court to prove the allegation that he was forced to sign the 2002 agreement.
A spokesperson for the navy, when contacted, said that since the court had already passed an order in the matter, he would not comment on it.

Nazir Jawad, a former legal adviser to the housing ministry, told Dawn that Mr Riaz could not use the ‘Bahria’ name until the judgment is suspended or set aside.
“It is a setback for the tycoon and the order endangers agreements Malik Riaz has signed with the national and international firms,” he said.
Mr Jawad said that Mr Riaz had the option of appealing against the decision before a sessions judge and the high court. The order would attain finality if the Supreme Court upheld it, he added.


Monday, March 9, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday upheld the conviction of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
A two member bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui dismissed the appeal.

The bench had reserved the judgment on Feb 11 after Advocate General Islamabad Mian Abdul Rauf, the prosecutor in the case, and Qadri’s counsels, including former Lahore High Court chief justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif and retired Justice Mian Nazeer – concluded their arguments.
The ruling by IHC was a surprise to many who had expected the killer's sentence might be reduced amid growing threats to lawyers and judges hearing blasphemy-related cases.

Death sentence remains, 7 ATA void
In Oct 2011, an anti-terrorist court (ATC) in Rawalpindi had sentenced Qadri to death on two counts under section 302 PPC and 7 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for killing Taseer. Following the sentencing, Qadri's counsels had challenged the ATC's decision through two applications the same month.

The first petition had demanded that Qadri's death sentence should be quashed and the second asked for Section 7 of the ATA to be declared void from the sentencing.

In its ruling on the appeal today, the IHC rejected Qadri's application against his death sentence under the PPC but accepted his application to void ATA's Section 7.
Qadri's counsels have planned to challenge IHC's decision to uphold his death penalty in the Supreme Court.

With the removal of Section 7, Qadri may still face the death sentence but will likely not be executed. Although the government has recently done away with the moratorium on capital punishment, the hangings since then have been those of terror convicts only.

With the acceptance of Qadri's plea demanding the exclusion of anti-terror clauses, the case is open to go for a retrial in a sessions court.

In light of today's verdict, security around the IHC had been tightened and paths leading to the court had been sealed with barbed wires due to the sensitive nature of the case. Unauthorised personnel were also barred from entering the court.

Qadri, a former commando of Punjab police’s Elite Force, was sentenced to death for assassinating former Punjab governor Salman Taseer in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market. Qadri said he killed Taseer over the politician's vocal opposition to the country's harsh blasphemy laws.
He had confessed to shooting Taseer dead outside an upmarket coffee shop close to the latter's residence in the capital on Jan 4.

The killing highlighted a growing gulf between conservatives and more liberal elements in society.
Qadri is viewed as a hero by many people who thought Taseer himself was a blasphemer by calling for the law's reform.

Some lawyers threw rose petals at Qadri when he arrived in court days after the killing. The judge who convicted Qadri was forced to flee the country after death threats.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the schedule of local government elections in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and cantonment areas submitted by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Supreme Court has ordered to hold the polls across the country by September this year and submit a new schedule in a day.

A three-member bench of apex court headed by Justice Jawad S Khawaja resumed the hearing of case on Wednesday.
The Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) presented Salman Aslam Butt presented schedule of LG elections drafted by ECP, which proposed that the polls will be held in in cantonment boards on May 16, and in K-P in June, in Punjab on February 20, 2016 and in Sindh on March 20, 2016.

The court expressed dissatisfaction over the schedule of Punjab and Sindh and asserted that LB polls should be held in both provinces no later than September this year.
AGP told court that the registration of around four millions new voters in Punjab and Sindh is yet to be done for which around 45 days are required while four months are needed for the delimitation of constituencies.

The bench remarked that what ECP was doing from last five years, suggesting the preparations for new LB elections should’ve got underway the day the term of previous local governments had expired.
The court observed that ECP’s inability to make arrangements for new LB polls mean it has not complied with its constitutional duty.

Earlier the day, when the hearing begun court directed AGP and ECP Acting Secretary Sher Afgan to submit the schedule of LG polls before 8pm.
AGP told court that an ordinance for amendments in Cantonment Act will be issued within 48 hours. The bench remarked that the how this would be done in just 48 hours when couldn’t be done in seventeen years.

When the bench reassembled at 8:00pm, ECP secretary said that the voter lists are being updated and this process will take at least 35 days while delimitation of constituencies will also take some months.
Justice Khawaja remarked that during the 23 hearings of case, the government has given just assurances to the court but has not taken any practical steps.

The bench said that the supremacy of constitution and law will be ensured at all costs and the government shouldn’t have any misconception that the court will give more time in this case.
The court ordered the poll supervisory body to submit new schedule by 8:00 pm on Thursday and adjourned the hearing of case.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Parliament is as adamant to know every single detail of the perks and privileges retired chief justices of the country enjoy as the Supreme Court is unwilling to share every detail.
The Senate chairman summoned on Tuesday the attorney general to respond to questions of the inquisitive members of the Upper House.
Senate Chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari took the decision after Minister for Law and Justice Parvaiz Rashid informed the house that “the Supreme Court has not responded to six letters of the ministry” over the subject.
Attorney General Salman Akram Butt is expected to attend the Senate proceedings, here tomorrow (on Wednesday).
Though the SC has yet to disclose information, the minister is said to have learnt “verbally” that former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is driving a 6,000cc bulletproof Mercedes Benz (GD-0341 of the Cabinet Division) in pursuance to a judgment of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in January 2014, and the law ministry was bearing expenditures of fuel and maintenance.
In response to a question of Senator Saeed Ghani from the Pakistan Peoples Party, the minister said that since January 30, 2014, as much as 4,689 litres of petrol has been issued to the former CJP’s car, while a repair estimate of Rs3,375,029 has been presented to a law division for which funds through a special grant are required from the finance division.
He said an intra-court appeal (ICA) has been filed, but despite applications of an early hearing, it is still pending.
The reply ignited a debate in the house with members showing concern over the SC’s reluctance to share information and some raising doubts over the superiority of Parliament.
During the course of the discussion, Bokhari referred to Article 205 [fifth schedule] of the Constitution, regarding remuneration of judges, and questioned whether rules have been amended to provide a bulletproof car to the former CJP.
“We have not asked anything secret. The Constitution allows us have this information. Is the SC Registrar not bound to provide relevant information to the House?” asked Senator Ghani. Further, Senator Zahid Khan questioned whether the Supreme Court is above Parliament.
Afterwards, the chairman asked Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House Aitzaz Ahsan and Senators Rafiq Rajwana and Babar Awan to assist the house over the issue [of when the AG will appear].
Read: Senate’s top posts: Nawaz to woo political outfits
However, the law minister said the government would agree with whatever decision is taken by the Senate.
Perks of chief justices
According to details, the number of retired CJPs since 1985 is 12. The CJP, on his retirement, is entitled to the minimum amount of the pension, equal to 70% of the salary determined by the president from time to time, plus, 5% for each completed year of service either as the CJP, or as a judge — not exceeding the minimum amount of pension equal to 85% of the said salary.
The CJP is also entitled to a driver and an orderly; 3,000 free local calls per month; 2,000 units of electricity; 25 hm gas per month and a free supply of water. In terms of vehicles, they are also entitled to 300 litres of petrol per month; purchase of official vehicle of 1,800cc at depreciated value, while no income tax shall be payable in respect of benefits and perquisites to which a judge or a widow as the case may be, is entitled.