Govt decides to remove Attorney General Elahi

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
Saturday, Mar 25, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to remove Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Shehzad Ata Elahi and he has been informally asked to step down voluntarily without further delay.

The government will designate a new attorney general next week. Sources in the Law Ministry told The News on Friday that the top law officer of the country hadn’t submitted his resignation till the evening but he could quit before Monday. Former Attorney General Irfan Qadir has been tipped to replace him. Irfan Qadir is a known jurist and constitutional expert who earlier served as AGP in the PPP government in Yusuf Raza Gilani’s government. He is currently Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior with the status of a federal minister. He also served as a senior judge.

Sources pointed out that Shehzad, who had been appointed AGP in early February, couldn’t live up to the expectations of the government. He failed to handle certain high-profile cases in courts skillfully. He had been trying to rescue his former senior colleagues in the superior judiciary while the government is not willing to offer any concession to elements inclined to flout the system. It is understood that none would be treated as a “sacred cow” in judicial wranglings.

The outgoing AGP turned up too soft in dealing with matters before courts. Sometimes harshness is required to handle matters before superior courts. Shehzad Elahi couldn’t act smartly and affectively while the subject of rescheduling of Punjab assembly polls came up for judicial review. Shehzad Elahi is the grandson of the late President Fazal Elahi Chaudhry who was the head of state when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the Prime Minister in the 70’s. Shehzad has worked with the famous law firm, Cornelius, Lane and Mufti. His expected resignation is coming nearly seven weeks after his appointment was confirmed by the President on Feb 2. He is also a corporate lawyer, who has rich experience in commercial, tax and banking laws, civil, commercial, corporate, constitutional litigation, etc.

The AGP office remained vacant from October 2022 to February 2023 ever-since Ashtar Ausaf Ali resigned over health reasons. In lJanuary, the apex court had held that the attorney general was a constitutional post and it could not be left vacant since there was no mention of an acting AGP in the Constitution. Interestingly, Supreme Court Justice Ejazul Ahsan also worked with the firm before his joining the bench. Hamid Khan and Salman Aslam Butt are senior members of the firm and former Chief Justice Jawad S Khawaja had also worked with it. Shehzad Elahi was in hot waters after he offered clarification on behalf of Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial for an unconfirmed controversial remark attributed to him during the hearing of a case. The Senate also witnessed a heated debate between the treasury and the opposition members early this month as both locked horns over the Chief Justice’s remarks about parliament during a hearing on an appeal against amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws.

The AGP while trying to side with the bench took a position that didn’t go well with the government. His conciliatory tone in a debate in the Senate attracted displeasure of the national legislature representing the government. Sources pointed out thata decision would be taken about the replacement in a meeting with Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in the chair on Monday. Ataullah Tarar, who is Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Interior and Legal Affairs with the status of a federal minister, could emerge as another contender for the slot, sources said.