Pakistan Boils Over Chief Justice Ouster

Pakistani is politically boiling over the ouster of Chief Judge Iftikhar Chaudry, with court activities nationwide brought to a halt Monday, March 12, after lawyers boycotted court proceedings in protest.

Pakistan Boils Over Chief Justice Ouster

"We do not accept theautocratic and unconstitutional judgment of General (Prevez) Musharaff,"Munir A. Malik, President of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA),

"He is acting like amonarch."

General Musharraf had dismissedChief Justice Chaudry and appointed Justice Javed Iqbal as acting ChiefJustice.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC)is going to try the ousted chief justice on the charges of misconduct andmisuse of authority.

The government claims that Chaudryhas been made "non-functional" till the judgment of the SJC.

He has been placed under undeclaredhouse arrest, and his passport as well as that of his family members have beenseized authorities, Chaudry's relative told IOL.

"Justice Iftikhar Chaudry isstill the chief justice of the Supreme Court. We do not accept any acting chiefjustice," Malik said.

He asserted that lawyers wouldboycott the proceedings of the SJC.

The lawyers' associations haveannounced a three-day strike throughout the country against dismissal of thechief justice.

"This is a callous conspiracyof the highest order against superior judiciary," insisted Malik.


The SCBA president accused Musharrafof punishing the chief justice for refusing to toe the official line.

"This is not the issue ofmisconduct or corruption," Malik asserted.

"General Musharraf has takenthis step because Justice Chaudry had refused to bow to his dictatorship, andtook suo-moto notices against government's wrong doings, especially in case ofmissing people," he added.

Yaseen Azad, a senior lawyer, saidthe ouster was a message to other judges that if they did not act in line withthe wishes of the rulers, they would have to face the same consequences.

He insisted that the formation ofSJC was unconstitutional, and the lawyers' community didn't accept that.

"Lawyers are trying to save thecountry, and our movement will continue till the ouster of militaryregime," Azad vowed defiantly.

Political and legal observersbelieve the dismissal of the chief justice has nothing to do with corruption ormisconduct charges.

"The corrupt and weak judgesalways suit the military rulers. If Justice Iftikhar had been a corrupt judge,he would have been the favorite of military rulers," cricketer-turnedpolitician Imran Khan told reporters.

Justice Iftikhar has severalimportant judgments to his credit.

The most significant judgments,which contested the government's claims regarding transparency and humanrights, were the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills and the case of"missing" persons.

In Steel Mills privatization caselast year, Justice Chaudry had held that the entire transaction was the"outcome of a process reflecting serious violation of law and grossirregularities" in which various aspects of profitability and assets ofthe state-owned enterprise were totally ignored.

The day before his removal, thechief justice had heard the case of "forced disappearances" and hehad expressed strong disappointment over the government's failure to locate thewhereabouts of people who vanished because of their suspected links withAl-Qaeda or other militant organizations.

During his 21-month tenure as chiefjustice, Justice Chaudry initiated scores of suo- motu actions, many againstgovernment officials, especially the police and the bureaucracy.

"The country's military andcivil bureaucracy was not happy with the chief justice as he challenged itspower for the first time in the history of Pakistan," Khan said.

"He was actively pursuing thecase of missing people, and forced the government to locate them. Theintelligence agencies were even not happy with him."

Trying Musharraf

Many believe that Musharraf was bethe one tried for what he has done to the Asian Muslim country.

"If judges are not angels, thenarmy generals are not angels too. If judges can be tried for misconduct and corruption,then General Musharraf and his company should be tried first because they haveviolated the constitution by dismissing an elected government," saidMalik.

Musharraf assumed power after amilitary coup in which the government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wasousted on October 12, 1999.

Azad, a senior lawyer, said he wasin favor of judges' accountability, but the way, the chief justice had beentreated was totally "wrong" and "dubious".

"The time has come when thearmy must take a decision whether it will trample upon the sanctity of thenation and the constitution or court martial General Musharraf who hascontinuously been violating the constitution," he told IOL.

"General Musharraf in realterms has enforced martial law in the country by dismissing the chiefjustice," he added.


The government defended the move,terming the lawyers' movement "unconstitutional" and"politically-motivated".

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz saidthat action against Justice Chaudry had been taken in accordance with the lawand the constitution.

He said the issue is now up to theSupreme Judicial Council in light of provision 209 of the Constitution.

"Every violator of the law ofthe land in any other field will face the same treatment," Aziz toldreporters.

Federal Minister for InformationMuhammad Ali Durrani warned the lawyers not to become part of the opposition.

"They should not act likepolitical workers. This is purely a constitutional issue, and they should waitfor the SJC's judgment," he told IOL.

Durrani warned that if lawyers triedto take the law in their hands, they would be treated accordingly.

"The government is not afraidof any protest movement. Lawyers are trying to convert a constitutional matterinto a political issue," he maintained.


A relative of dismissed chief justiceclaim that he was being pressurized by the government to resign, otherwise hewould have to face the SJC.

"The government is puttingpressure on him to resign from his post," Aamir Rana, a nephew of JusticeChaudhry, told IOL.

"Authorities concerned aredemanding resignation from my uncle. They are also harassing us, and somepeople in plain cloths raided my house to arrest me, but I wasn't there,"he said.

Rana said the movement of the chiefjustice had been restricted to his official residence in Islamabad.

"No close relatives are allowedto meet him," he said, adding that all telephones of the officialresidence had been disconnected.

Rana said Musharraf asked JusticeChaudry not to pass remarks against the government during the hearing ofdifferent cases.

According to him, Justice Chaudrywas facing a lot of pressure from the government to dismiss cases of missingpersons.

Government sources, speaking oncondition of anonymity, told IOL that some serving supreme court judges and twosenior federal ministers were trying to persuade the chief justice to resignvoluntarily to the save the country from the imminent constitutional crisis.

Pakistan's veteran politician AsgharKhan, the first non-government person to meet the chief justice since Friday,told IOL that Chaudry was not ready to resign, and was determined to face theallegations leveled against him.

"He told me that he wants anopen trial on the allegations against him so that the people of Pakistan knowwhat is reality," he said.

According to Khan, Chaudry rejectedthe allegations against him and said he had done nothing wrong.

Chaudry told him he had been heldincommunicado and was not allowed to see his lawyers.

"His all telephones and TVcable have been disconnected. Even, he is not being provided newspapers."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16