A Legal Take on the Supreme Court Arrest Order | Q&A

Jan 2013
By M.A.

As news of the Supreme Court (SC) arrest order for Prime Minister (PM) Raza Pervaiz Ashraf unfolds, Tanqeed speaks to Supreme Court Advocate, Feisal H Naqvi, to understand the legal dimensions of the decision:

Tanqeed: With the information you have at hand, what exactly has the court decided?

Feisal H Naqvi: It’s not entirely clear but from what I can tell, National Accountability Board (NAB) presented an 80 page investigative report to the court, in which it accused the PM and various others of having acted illegally. The SC looked at that report and then told NAB to act on that report by (a) arresting the accused; and (b) filing a reference (i.e. formally commencing a criminal trial).

TQ: Can the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Ashraf complete their tenure? Does this mean a substitute prime minister?

FHN: Yes it can. The prime minister can apply for bail (and will probably get it).  An arrest is not the same as a conviction. Just like many others, Pervez Ashraf has a day job–he is the PM–and he does not necessarily have to step down from that position. So the arrest warrant for the PM does not have to result in a substitute appointment.

TQ: What legal impact does this have on elections?

FHN:  The order has no legal impact on elections. I have no idea what it means in political terms.

TQ: Who will execute the decision? Is there any legal route for the army to step in.

FHN:  The police will arrest him. As for an army takeover, there is no legal route to that and the SC has, in any event, repeatedly stated that it will not accept a military coup.

TQ: What are the political ramifications of this decision?

FHN: Not sure. My sense is that it will only confirm existing prejudices. Supporters of the PPP will continue to believe that the PPP is being victimized by the establishment while everybody else will be confirmed in their view that PPP are just a bunch of crooks.

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