December 26, 2007

A nightmare for judiciary (For year 2007)

Filed under: DOMESTIC — civilsocietypakistan @ 12:42 am

The nation

Dec 26, 2007

Amir Riaz
LAHORE-The year 2007 turned out to be a nightmare for the judiciary as 43 judges were sacked under the garb of Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) after the President felt threatened by Supreme Court in his bid to become President for the second term while holding office of the Chief of Army Staff.
But the good thing that came out of the ongoing judicial crisis is that the lawyers emerged as a new political force in the country.
At the start of the year, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was called to the Presidential camp office to tender his resignation.
But Justice Iftikhar who once had validated Musharraf’s 1999 coup, was a completely changed man as he refused to step down.
General Musharraf suspended him and send a corruption reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council.
The situation turned worst when the CJP accused some members of the SJC of corruption but no heed was paid to his objections.
These allegations were also made public. His counsel Aitzaz Ahsan moved a Constitutional petition in Supreme Court that stopped SJC from proceeding further in the matter.
On the other hand the move ignited wild protests among the country’s thousands of lawyers against President Musharraf who stood steadfast with their CJP then and even today.
They lawyers kept the momentum of their four and a half month long movement during which CJP visited bar associations throughout the country. During each visit at bars CJP received tumultuous welcome and became the most famous personality of the nation. Judges of the Lahore High Court, Sindh High Court and Peshawar High Court waited hours to welcome their CJP.
The police also used its resources to crush lawyers movement after March 9. For the first time in LHC history armored vehicle entered the LHC premises. But even the display of the worst kind of torture could not help State functionaries to break lawyers will or dent their unity.
Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry who was the member of SJC conducting reference against CJP, did not take action against manhandling of lawyers. However, the then acting CJP Justice Javed Iqbal took suo moto notice of the incident.
Meanwhile, Justice Rana Baghwandas Das retuned from his India trip and had taken the oath of acting CJP in place of Justice Javed Iqbal.
Justice Baghwandas(now retired) had formed a larger bench headed by Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday that restored CJP in its historical July 20 verdict.
The bench also threw out the reference, declaring all the allegations baseless and concocted.
After his reinstatement, CJP kept his word to strictly follow Constitution and law. This is evident from the fact that he summoned important functionaries or sacred cows in missing persons case and in Nawaz Sharif contempt of court case against his forced exile.
The crunch moment for SC came when President dual office was challenged before it but the bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal dismissed petitions filed by Imran khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed and others on technical grounds.
The lawyers top leaders then evolved a new strategy against Musharraf.
They announced Justice (Retd) Wajihuddin as Presidential candidate only to challenge Musharraf’s nomination papers in SC which they did.
The 11-member bench of the Supreme Court, a day before polls , restrained Election Commission of Pakistan from issuing notification of the retuned candidate.
The darkest part of the entire episode started from here onwards. As the SC was hearing the case, General Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on November 3 and issued a Provisional constitutional Order to remove ‘unwanted’ judges. The Constitution was also held in abeyance, the move which lawyers termed as imposition of Martial law.
The judges were asked to take a new oath under PCO while Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry alongwith 43 judges was sacked.
The lawyers again came out on the streets, but this time they were subjected to severe torture and thousands of them were put behind the bars with civic liberties curtailed under PCO.
Most of them have been released on bail but Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Tariq Mahmood are still under house arrest.
The superior court judges who refused to take oath under PCO, were also detained at their residences while some of them including CJP are still under detention.
The missing persons case also got international attention and dozens of persons were released.
Pre-November judiciary also sentenced police officers responsible for manhandling of CJP when he refused to use an official car to go SJC after he was first deposed on March 9. Post-November 3 judiciary has now suspended these sentences.
General Musharraf’s imposition of emergency and PCO was challenged in SC by Tikka Iqbal Khan. The bench headed by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar validated Musharraf’s all steps taken on November 3 and afterwards.
The judges who took oath under PCO also dismissed petitions challenging Musharraf’s ineligibility to contest Presidential elections in uniform. But it made mandatory for him to doff uniform before taking oath as President.
When the emergency was imposed a seven member bench headed by Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had suspended it, restraining all superior court judges from taking oath under PCO. The judges did not act upon it because 50 judges throughout the country took oath under PCO. The present SC has now set aside that order.
The judge who did not take oath under PCO still say that they are judges under the Constitution while the lawyers are also supporting their cause. They are on the boycott, holding rallies and passing condemnation resolutions.
President Pervez Musharraf had lifted the emergency, PCO on December 15 and restored the Constitution with all the ‘amendments’ he made during the emergency. The same day a fresh oath was also taken from the judges.
The Lahore high Court also stayed the establishment of Federal High Court at Islamabad. This order has been suspended by SC a couple of day ago.
This year a new Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court has been appointed after five years. Though new CJ Justice Syed Zahid Hussain will take oath on January 1st ,2008.
During these five years most of the time tense atmosphere remained between bar and bench and the differences were further widened mainly due to the reasons that both sides stuck to their view-point.


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