As the Supreme Court fixes the hearing of presidential reference for interpretation and scope of Article 63A of the Constitution on April 18, new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has yet to appoint the new attorney general for Pakistan (AGP).
Former AGP Khalid Jawed Khan resigned after the success of the no-confidence motion against then prime minister Imran Khan on April 10. Later, the Supreme Court delisted the presidential reference on account of non-appointment of the new AGP.
Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Amir Rehman had moved an application in the Supreme Court, stating that in the wake of resignation by the AGP and absence of the federal government, the court may adjourn the reference to a convenient date in the next week.
Now the matter is again listed for hearing on April 18 but still the appointment of the top law officer of the country is yet to be finalised. It is learnt that deliberations within the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) top ranks are ongoing regarding this significant post.
The government wants to appoint the new AGP after an informal consultation with Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial because the post is important for the superior judiciary as well. The AGP is a member of Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) which recommends names for new judges to the superior courts.
Keeping in view of the importance of this constitutional post, senior lawyers say that in the past, every CJP had desired an AGP, who could properly assist the court in complicated constitutional matters as well as implementation of its orders.
Similarly, the JCP’s working has changed in last couple of years as every commission member has a vote during the appointment process. Therefore, the nominations of both the AGP and the law minister will be crucial in the judges’ appointment. Currently, three posts of the Supreme Court judges are vacant.
On the other hand, the incumbent government cannot overlook the opinion of the superior bars – which played a key role in replacing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government with the PML-N-led government – regarding the appointments of the law minister and the AGP.
A senior lawyer revealed to The Express Tribune that senior members of the Independent Lawyers Group had already been asked to suggest a couple of names for the post of the AGP. Interestingly, the bars have its own view regarding the appointment of judges, especially the seniority principle.
Senior lawyers believe that the government cannot afford the appointment of a new AGP without informal consultation with the CJP. In the past during then PPP government, when Maulvi Anwarul Haq and Irfan Qadir were appointed as AGPs without consulting the then chief justice, a clash between judiciary and executive arose. Subsequently, the prime minister was ousted in a contempt case.
A senior PML-N leader said that the government wanted to appoint a Lahore-based lawyer as the AGP. Another PML-N leader said that appointment of the new AGP would be finalised in the next couple of days.
It is learnt that the government had contacted former AGP Makhdoom Ali Khan to take charge as the new law officer but he had declined. For now, it is learnt, the names of former AGP Ashtar Ausaf and Mustafa Ramday are under consideration.
The names of a few professional and active lawyers are also being suggested but the government and bar representatives wanted an AGP, who could express his opinion independently at any forum.
Regarding the portfolio of the law minister, insiders revealed that the PML-N legal team wanted that Zahid Hamid should be appointed as adviser on Law. They also suggested that Rana Sanaullah should be given the additional charge of the law minister.