Another gruelling day for Dr Qadri in SC
ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The issue of locus standi (right to appear) raised by the Supreme Court on Monday at the beginning of hearing on a petition filed by Dr Tahirul Qadri is an obstacle which appeared to be insurmountable on Tuesday.
On the second day of hearing, Dr Qadri apparently failed to establish that he had the right to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court and seek reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He will try his luck again on Wednesday since the court did not appear to be convinced by the justification he presented in his concise statement on Tuesday.
“Dr Sahib our anxiety is that you are not an ordinary individual but a jurist, a scholar, rather Sheikhul Islam, and deliver lectures in over 90 countries to bring people to the folds of Islam, but you are showing allegiance not only to Queen Elizabeth but also her successors,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who heads a three-judge bench which had taken up the petition of Dr Qadri.
“This petition of yours asks us to think over these issues,” the chief justice said and repeatedly asked how Dr Qadri could attack a constitutional institution by approaching another institution when in a third country he was not a Pakistani.
“Your allegiance is divided and you are more concerned about your loyalty to Canada,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed. He said he wondered how the Supreme Court could hear a person who might come from another land to seek an order on sensitive strategic issues like Kahuta or ask for certain kind of relationship with a particular country or seek an order on monetary policies, etc.
Any person holding a dual nationality could come to Pakistan anytime to meet his relatives and spend time, but how he could be allowed to indulge in political or other activities which might affect the entire country, Justice Gulzar asked. “Perhaps this may not be permissible.”
Dr Qadri could only disagree with the court’s observations and say that the Constitution did not disallow him to retain dual nationality and that he could not think of violating any provision of the Constitution.
He cited verses from Suratun Nisa and said authority always vested in the people and not in the rulers or parliamentarians.
But he was told by the court that he had only come to Pakistan in December last year and filed the petition at a time when 180 million people, senators, lawmakers and intending candidates had not objected to the formation of the ECP, especially when the general election was round the corner.
“We do not want to open a Pandora’s Box,” the chief justice observed. He said nobody could dare raise such issues in India or any other country.
“We are moving towards the path of strengthening democracy,” the chief justice observed. He categorically stated that overseas Pakistanis were respected and nobody could snatch their right to vote in elections.
Dr Qadri said he had to rely on Canadian passport to visit different countries for lectures even in institutions like Harvard or George Washington University. After the Gulf war, he said, the situation had changed and it had become difficult for him to seek visa on Pakistani passport whereas no visa was required on Canadian passport.
But Justice Gulzar observed that there might be a conflict between the oath of allegiance to Canada and Article 5 of the Constitution which asked for loyalty to the state and obedience to the Constitution and law. “Being a Canadian citizen there may be certain obligations on you that cannot come under the definition of loyalty to Pakistan,” he said.
A born Pakistani even if in the North Pole remained a Pakistani, the chief justice said and cited the example of Asma Jehangir who preferred to remain in the country despite threats to her life.
Dr Qadri cited cases of Shehla Raza, Malik Asad Ali, NRO, etc, to establish that the point of locus standi had been interpreted liberally in the cases. He also recalled that in the memo scandal case the Supreme Court had converted an application of Shafqatullah Sohail into a petition. But the court said Sohail’s petition was still pending and notices had also been issued to the attorney general and the ECP on Dr Qadri’s petition.
When the court cited the July 31, 2009, judgment, Attorney General Irfan Qadir reminded it that prestigious bar councils and associations had adopted a resolution against the judgment.
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jehangir, who was present in the Courtroom-1 to witness the proceedings, spoke to reporters outside the court and opposed the idea of raising the question of locus standi on the basis of dual nationality of Dr Qadri.
“There should no be discrimination with the holders of dual nationality as the court should not divide people in A, B or C category on the basis of their loyalties,” she said, adding that if the apex court was too much sensitive on the issue of loyalty of dual nationals why it had spent so much time on Mansoor Ijaz in the memo scandal case when he was not even a Pakistani.
But Ms Jehangir admitted that the court had the right to raise questions to ascertain the bona fide and real intention of the petitioner though it had been remaining quiet in this regard for three years.