President Removes the Chief Justice. Why?

Posted on March 9, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Politics
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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.

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 responses to “President Removes the Chief Justice. Why?”

  1. Nihari says:

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  2. justed must take action on nro .

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