Friday, February 22, 2008

Replace NRO with general legislation on "Judicial Pardon"

Salman Shuaib

It is evident that PPP is not too keen on restoring the judiciary, especially since they want the NRO to stay. Musharraf has activated the trial in the Swiss courts against Zardari as a bargaining chip. The disgraced General will also rely on the good offices of President Bush to press Zardari to not restore the judiciary, as it will spell the end of Musharraf.

All these, however, are the last sighs of a dying man. The movement for restoration of judges will only gather pace from hereon, and CJP Iftikhar will have to be restored sooner or later. Infact, "restored" is the wrong word, CJP Iftikhar "is" the current constitutional Chief Justice of Pakistan and we don't even need the new government to pass any administrative order to reinstate the Chief Justice.Our problem is to ensure that CJP Iftikhar resumes his office wihout any conditions attached. At the same time we need to restore a level of trust and cooperation between the reinstated judiciary and new executive.

The NRO is unacceptable as it gives an exclusive constitutional amnesty to certain political parties for their alleged corruption. In order to restore Pakistan's judiciary with honour and without such humiliating conditions as the NRO, I recommend that a general concept of judicial pardon for those who commit acts of redemption be legislated.

Those who commit an act of goodness such as restoring the judiciary without any conditions attached, thereby protecting Pakistan from billions of dollars of corruption in future, they should be eligible to receive a judicial pardon for their past crimes - provided that such a pardon is given at the discretion of the judiciary and not a part of any legislation. Also, if any past corruption is proven, then the guilty individual that received a pardon will still have to reimburse Pakistan's coffers with the stolen amount but will not be subject to any personal punishment such as jail for the specific period that he received a pardon for. The pardoned individuals will remain accountable for any future acts of corruption.

I believe that if Allah can forgive us for our past crimes if we overcome them with good deeds, then our Constitution should also have some element of forgiveness in it.

Again, just to ensure that my personal opinions are not misinterpretted as a free ride for the corrupt, I would like to lay down the specifics of the "Judicial Pardon" as it ought to be legislated:

1. NRO stands annulled
2. Any citizen of Pakistan that has committed a crime in the past but overcomes it with an act of equal or greater goodness, as determined by independent judges, should be eligible to receive a judicial pardon for his past crimes. The extent of the pardon should be determined by the judges as well.
3. Provided that if any past acts of corruption are proven in a court of law, the individual receiving pardon must reimburse the State of Pakistan with the misappropriated amount.
4. The individual receiving pardon will still be accountable to the judiciary for any corruption or crime committed in the future.
5. No conditions must be attached to the resumption of office by the Chief Justice Iftikhar and all other judges. Judicial pardons will only be granted on a case-by-case basis after the independent judiciary is restored.

I believe that Imran Khan should mediate between CJP Iftikhar, Nawaz and Zardari with the above proposal. This is my personal opinion and not in any way reflects PTI's official stance. The civil society, lawyers and APDM meanwhile should continue to press for the reinstatement of CJP Iftikhar so that he comes to his office with the power of the people, and not beholden to any political party that does him a favour.

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