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President Removes the Chief Justice. Why?

Posted on March 9, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Politics
Total Views: 111296


Adil Najam

In a rather shocking move, the President, Gen. Perzez Musharraf just dismissed the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry for alleged “misuse of authority.”

According to a breaking news segment at The News:

The president has submitted a case against Chaudhry to the Supreme Judicial Council. Musharraf had received “numerous complaints and serious allegations for misconduct, misuse of authority and actions prejudicial to the dignity of office of the chief justice of Pakistan,” and Chaudhry had been unable to give a satisfactory explanation, sources said. The report did not specify what he was accused of. The council is a panel of top Pakistani judges that adjudicates cases brought against serving judges and will decide whether the charges against Chaudhry merit his formal dismissal and whether he should be prosecuted.

Basing their story on the Associated Press of Pakistan, the BBC reports further:

Mr Chaudhry was summoned to explain himself to Gen Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. His case was then referred to the Supreme Judicial Council which will decide if Mr Chaudhry should be prosecuted.

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The move has shocked many, but signs of its coming can now be identified in hindsight. Mr. Chaudhry had served as the Chief Justice since 2005 and, on occasion, had taken steps that had irked the power structure in Pakistan.

According to a Khaleej Times report, for example:

Last June, the Supreme Court rejected a government move to sell 75 percent of state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills to a Saudi-Russian-Pakistani consortium for 21.7 billion rupees ($362 million). Mill workers claimed it was greatly undervalued. Also, Chaudhry has heard a landmark case brought by relatives of dozens of people believed taken into secret custody by Pakistani intelligence agencies. The chief justice has pressed the government to provide information on the detainees whereabouts. Talat Masood, a political analyst, said the removal of Chaudhry demonstrated the power of the military and suggested that Musharraf’s government wanted to have a “pliable judiciary” ahead of parliamentary elections expected later this year. Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, is widely expected to seek another five-year term as president from parliament this fall.

Recently, an open letter from Advocate Naeem Bokhari addressed to the Chief Justice and making a number of allegations against him – some personal – has been circulating on the internet extensively. Over the last week, I received probably two dozen emails with that letter in it (many from our readers, and one from my mother!). It seems to have created a stir. Many readers have been writing that we do a post on that letter. I had not done so, just because the letter was a little puzzling to me and its motivations were not clear. I wondered also if there were hints of personal rivalries or issues. On the other hand it was a well-written and seemingly sincere letter from a person of known integrity. In retrospect, the way the letter ended was prophetic:

My Lord, this communication may anger you and you are in any case prone to get angry in a flash, but do reflect upon it. Perhaps you are not cognizant of what your brother judges feel and say about you. My Lord, before a rebellion arises among your brother judges (as in the case of Mr. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah), before the Bar stands up collectively and before the entire matter is placed before the Supreme Judicial Council, there may be time to change and make amends. I hope you have the wisdom and courage to make these amends and restore serenity, calm, compassion, patience and justice tempered with mercy to my Supreme Court. My Lord, we all live in the womb of time and are judged, both by the present and by history. The judgement about you, being rendered in the present, is adverse in the extreme.

In all honesty, one has to wonder, however, whether it was that letter and other recent media focus on the Chief Justice that led to the removal of the Chief Justice, or whether these were merely instruments designed to prepare the way for this removal?

In either case, a removal of the Chief Justice in this way and for such reasons and at this time is a sad, sad development that will be one more blow to the hopes of the development of an independent judiciary in Pakistan.

Note: At various points we have reproduced, in our right-most column, cartoons from Daily Times (and here) and The News.

302 comments posted

Comment Pages: « 3811 10 9 8 7 [6] 5 4 3 2 1 » Show All

  1. Adnan Ahmad says:
    March 10th, 2007 11:32 am

    There are some decisions (mistakes) that have a lasting impact on a ruler’s tenure. I am afraid this was one such decision Musharraf made.

    Increasingly people are getting the notion that he has surrounded himself with the wrong people who are slowly taking him down. He should have known, he must have, about the magnitude of this decision.

    Very briefly.. about steel mills, arif habib and shortcut aziz, … during all that saga, the mills chief, also an armyman, kept on pleading that he should be given the chance to revive the mills. Instead he was fired. Something was terribly wrong and the general seemed just not interested.

    I wonder if someone has given him a flute as a gift and he has started enjoying it. His announcement of 1947 feet high building in karachi also goes well with my assumption.

  2. PatExpat says:
    March 10th, 2007 11:01 am

    As Faiz said it

    nisaar mein teri galyon peh aye watan keh
    jahan chali hai rasm koi na sar utha ke chaley

  3. Disciple says:
    March 10th, 2007 10:15 am

    Here is some background info

  4. king_faisal says:
    March 10th, 2007 10:05 am

    pakistan is a free country and people are free to oppose musharraf. does not mean that everything musharraf does is to the detriment of pakistan and that people who opposes musharraf automatically have the right solutions for pak or have no personal reasons for opposing musharraf.

    like akbar bugti, chief justice is being held as a poster boy for all that is good and holy. reason for deification for chief justice is that he has apparently exposed dirty dealings inside the government by the steel mills decision. well, that decision was completely b.s. because the judgement is riddled with factual errors besides indicating a complete lack of understanding of basics of fianace. note that supreme court justices are not divine human beings and are known to get decisions wrong even in advanced industrial societies like u.s. and u.k. the 5-4 ruling by u.s. supreme court that handed election to bush is a good example of fallibility of judges. moreover the decision also indicates that judges are not beyond taking partisan viewpoint.

    pakistani judicial system is a cesspool where law breakers, criminals and terrorists get all the protection and where no provisions are made to protect the interest of larger society. every major criminal in karachi is out on bail and terrorist like the killer of zille huma and akram lahori are set free to spread mayhem. until the judiciary gets its act together and starts looking out for the awam, i have no sympathy for any misfortune that might fall on the judges. given that pakistani judges are no different from folks who run pia or wapda, i dont hold much hope. moreover i support anyone who shakes things up and given the job musharraf has done in other areas, i am going to reserve my judgement on this incident.

  5. Ramla A. says:
    March 10th, 2007 9:55 am

    I forgot what I wanted to say when I read the warning sign for comment posting! :)

    Well, here is a link that lists some Justice Iftikhar’s “decisions that irked the government,” according to Munaeem.

    I am covering the story and views here: Readers will find lots of references to Just. Iftikhar’s cases and other background material.

  6. Shaji says:
    March 10th, 2007 9:28 am

    When will the day come when the nation rises against the Raj(Fauj) and show them their place in society? Do we have enough courage to make such a commitment? What will it take for a nation like ours to stand up and say something?

  7. Disciple says:
    March 10th, 2007 7:48 am

    This image had me burning since yesterday. How dare a military dictator and an illegal so-called president question a legitimate CJ? …and how dare he declares that CJ could not reply satisfactorily. What a joke. Anyone who questions the CJ needs to be on better legal ground than CJ and not much worst as is the case with Musharraf. A shameful day for us all. Still commendable that CJ stuck to his ground and did not resign. Rare these days to not succumb to fauji pressure.

    Here is the image btw;

  8. Jawaad Qureshi says:
    March 10th, 2007 7:42 am

    To me this is a disgrace for the entire nation. It highlights us as a ‘dead’ nation.

    Churchill was asked after the London bombings during WW2, what he thought would become of the country. He replied ‘Are the courts functioning?’. ‘Yes’, he was told. ‘Are they dispensing justice?’ he asked. ‘Yes’ was the reply. Winston S.Churchill stated that ‘Then I have no doubt that England shall prevail, and I’m as sure of this as I am about the sun rising tomorrow.’

Comment Pages: « 3811 10 9 8 7 [6] 5 4 3 2 1 » Show All

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