ISLAMABAD: The capital was again awash with anticipation and speculation on Saturday night on two counts: the prime minister’s address to the nation slated for Sunday and reports that judges of the Supreme Court were in conclave ostensibly to exchange views about petitions challenging the 18th Amendment.
The judges’ meeting lasted from 9.30am to 6pm. They had held a similar meeting last week.
According to reliable sources, Yousuf Raza Gilani will make an attempt to allay the apex court’s apprehensions and misgivings set off after Thursday’s television reports about reversal of the judges’ reinstatement order.
The judiciary has issued notices to the attorney general, the Pemra chairman and officials of three private TV channels to appear before a 17-judge bench on Monday.
Sources told Dawn that the prime minister had made the decision to address the nation after meeting President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday when the Supreme Court issued a blunt restraining order stating that attempts to void the March 16, 2009, notification would mean subverting the Constitution — defined as high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.
The order was issued after the attorney general expressed his inability to provide a written statement of the prime minister on the issue despite a directive of the judges.
Dramatic incidents have dominated the past three days — the nation saw all the judges re-assembling at the SC building at midnight on Thursday despite the fact that they had already held a six-hour meeting. Another nine-hour meeting was held on Saturday. This has proved unnerving for the nation that has been witnessing a tug of war between the judiciary and the government for over two years.
All these developments are taking place at a time when the 17-judge bench of the Supreme Court has completed hearing of petitions challenging key provisions of the 18th Amendment and is expected to announce the verdict shortly.
The court is also hearing an appeal by the government against its decision of nullifying the NRO and a case about its implementation.
Political observers believe that the future scenario will become somehow clearer after the prime minister’s address. The address has acquired significance particularly after a joint news conference of Law Minister Babar Awan and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Friday in which they targeted both the judiciary and the media for their role in the ongoing crisis.
It will be interesting to see whether the prime minister also talks in the same tone and tenor or adopts a conciliatory mode.
The prime minister is also expected to take the nation into confidence on the government’s efforts for the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people and the forthcoming ‘strategic dialogue’ with the
SC MEETING: According to sources, the purpose of such meetings was to evolve a consensus and it was not clear if the deliberations had concluded.
It is also not clear as to when the verdict on the petitions challenging the amendment will be announced.
On Sept 30, a 17-judge full court reserved its verdict after over four months of hearing.The proceedings commenced on May 24.
The provisions of the amendment challenged by the petitioners include a new mechanism introduced unanimously by parliament under Article 175-A for appointing superior court judges.
A number of petitions had also oppose the renaming of the NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, deletion of Article 17(4) about intra-party elections and insertion of Article 63-A empowering the party heads to have a final say in cases of defection.