Uproar again in National Assembly over Supreme Court seeking proceedings record

Asif Bashir Chaudhary
Waqar Satti
A view of the National Assembly session underway with Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf in the chair, on April 10, 2023. — Twitter/NAofPakistan
A view of the National Assembly session underway with Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf in the chair, on April 10, 2023. — Twitter/NAofPakistan

ISLAMABAD: The treasury and opposition benches in the National Assembly Wednesday once again strongly protested against the Supreme Court's orders to the lower house of parliament for handing over the record of proceedings related to a bill.

The apex court has sought the house's proceedings regarding The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, which seeks to regulate the powers of the chief justice and devolve them to a committee.

After strong protest from the benches, NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf tasked a committee — which was formed earlier today to probe ex-CJP Saqib Nisar's audio leak — to oversee the matter of surrendering the record to the top court.

An eight-member bench of the top court, which is currently hearing the petitions against the controversial law had a day earlier directed Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan to produce copies of the proceedings of the standing committee and the house "to understand the concerns and views of the lawmakers while passing the bill".

In response to the members' protests, the NA speaker told the National Assembly that he would not "compromise" on the supremacy of parliament. "There should be no doubt that the house is supreme when it comes to the country's matters."

The members voiced concerns against the top court's orders a day earlier as well and in an apparent tit-for-tat move, approved the formation of a committee to probe the alleged leak of a conversation between former CJP Saqib Nisar's son and another person, where the former purportedly demanded Rs12 million for a party ticket in the Punjab Assembly elections.

'Locked horns'

In his speech on the floor of the house earlier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said two institutions — the parliament and the Supreme Court — have locked horns. In a reference to the SC's infighting, he said there seems to be a difference of opinion between the people who interpret the Constitution.

The defence minister proposed to form a committee which would analyse the results of orders by former chief justice of Pakistan Muhammad Munir and others.

"We are at a crucial juncture of history. We respect the court, but we are against courts breaching their constitutional limits," the minister said, noting that when the Constitution was violated in the past, judges were the ones who allowed it.

Asif reminded the courts that more than 400,000 cases were pending and advised them to come face-to-face with the parliament after they're done wrapping up the cases.

The minister also recommended giving the assembly the status of a committee and summoning Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial for questioning.

In his speech, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the house's record cannot be handed over to the top court without informing the NA members.

"This is a very serious matter. This house is supreme and the creator of the Supreme Court," Abbasi, who is also a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said.

Noor Alam Khan, a leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Public Accounts Committee chairman, noted that an audit of the Supreme Court has not been conducted in at least a decade.

"We have summoned the Supreme Court's principal accounting officer and we have also sought the details of the Mohmand Dam Fund," the PTI leader said, also noting that his committee has sought the details of judges' salaries.