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Govt seeks postponement of NRO hearing

judges pakistanISLAMABAD: For the second time in less than a fortnight, the federal government approached the Supreme Court on Saturday with a request to delay the hearing of its review petition against the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) verdict till the time it found a replacement for its counsel, Barrister Kamal Azfar who had been elevated to the position of adviser to the prime minister.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ordered that the application be fixed before a three-judge bench on Monday and asked Raja Abdul Ghafoor, the government’s Advocate-on-Record, to submit a copy of the notification regarding Mr Azfar’s appointment along with terms and conditions of his new job.

The bench, headed by the chief justice, comprises Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday.

“In the miscellaneous application, the government has simply requested the Supreme Court to give more time to the government because it has not yet engaged a new lawyer to plead its case in the NRO review petition,” Raja Ghafoor told Dawn.

At the last hearing on Sept 27, the court had accepted the government’s request for putting off the hearing on implementation of its judgment on the NRO and fixed the review petition for hearing on Oct 13.

The Saturday court order said: “The application be put up in the court on Oct 11. Notice to the caveator, if any, be issued. In the meanwhile, Raja Abdul Ghafoor, is directed to produce copy of notification as Adviser to Prime Minister of Barrister Kamal Azfar along with his terms and conditions at the time of hearing of the application.

“It is further elaborated that cases relating to NRO are fixed before the larger bench of this court on Oct 13 on the request of Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq. Moreover, Barrister Kamal Azfar in his earlier application had also asked for general adjournment for a period of Sept 22 to Oct 10 which was allowed by the chief justice.

“For the third time Raja Abdul Ghafoor has filed the civil miscellaneous application for grant of time to engage another counsel on behalf of federation of Pakistan in C.R.P No. 129/2010 in Constitution petition No. 76/2007 requesting therein that Barrister Kamal Azfar who was representing the Federation in C.R.P 129/10, has now been appointed as adviser to the prime minister and prayed for appropriate time to engage another counsel.

“Since Kamal Azfar had originally represented the federal government in the petitions against the NRO, he is required to argue the review petition also under the Supreme Court rules.”

Since the review petition has been marred with controversies and twists soon after the NRO judgment, the federal government filed two review petitions in the Supreme Court — one drafted by Advocate Masood Chishti, now the law secretary, and the other by Barrister Kamal Azfar.

The first review petition was filed in the name of Advocate Chishti because Mr Azfar, who had pleaded before the court in the first round of the case against the NRO, was not available and had gone abroad because of some personal commitments.

The government had no choice but to file the first petition because the 30-day deadline was ending and the availability of Mr Azfar was not in sight. Therefore, a petition had to be moved by Mr Chishti with a request to dispense with the requirement under which the same lawyer has to move the review petition who pleaded the case in the first instance.

After his return, Mr Azfar filed a detailed review petition again requesting the court to disregard the earlier request of allowing Mr Chishti to argue. But he had to face embarrassment when the court office refused to accept the review petition after raising a host of objections, including that it contained political statement.

After removing the objections, Mr Azfar again filed the same with the hope that the apex court would grant him the permission to argue. Since then the proper hearing on the review petition has not commenced on one pretext or the other.

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