PML-N faces backlash for hiring top lawyer

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led coalition government is facing criticism from its supporters for engaging famous lawyer Dr Farogh Naseem to defend the trial of civilians in military courts on behalf of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Sources said Dr Naseem has arrived in Islamabad to appear today (Monday) before a seven-member larger bench of the Supreme Court that is hearing petitions against court martial of the suspects who vandalized army installations after the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on May 9.

“The government is under fire from its supporters and is now having second thoughts. Maybe he [Naseem] will not appear before the court,” said a member of the federal cabinet while requesting not to be named. He, however, did not tell as to what was the nature of the criticism.

Despite his political views, Dr Farogh Naseem is known as a competent lawyer. He is also a senator who was elected to the upper house of parliament on the ticket of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which is now an ally of the PML-N.

He represented former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf before a special court in a high treason case in 2014 as well as former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa when the issue of extension in his term of service landed in the apex court in November 2019.

Dr Naseem, who served as the federal law minister during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rule, had resigned from his position to defend a presidential reference filed against Supreme Court senior puisne judge Qazi Faez Isa.

A senior lawyer said perhaps on second thought, the government does not want to annoy Justice Isa and his supporters. Justice Isa is already notified as chief justice of Pakistan with effect from September 17.

Justice Isa and Dr Naseem even exchanged harsh words in a meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) during the PTI rule in July 2021.

The government has also approached senior lawyer Shah Khawar but a final decision regarding him will be taken today (Monday). Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Irfan Qadir is also requested to join the government legal team. He has yet to take a final decision in this regard.

At the last hearing of the case, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, who is leading the seven-member bench, said the bench would try to conclude the proceeding by Tuesday. It is expected that everything regarding the government’s engagement of private counsels will become clear today.

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