Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury the rallying point for Pakistan’s judges

March 16th, 2009 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez Musharraf Islamabad, March 16 (IANS) When former Pakistani military strongman Pervez Musharraf not once, but twice, sacked Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury as the country’s chief justice, little did he realise that he was setting in motion a chain of events that would see the judge literally change the nation’s history.
Chaudhury’s reinstatement Monday ended a lawyers’ ‘long march’ that was threatening to spin out of control and take the country on the road to instability.

It was the second time Chaudhury, 60, had become the rallying point for the lawyers. The last time around, in June, the government refused to given in to the lawyers’ demand for restoring the judges who had been sacked in 2007.

The agitation, however, prompted Musharraf to step down.

This time, not only has the demand been met but Pakistan’s political equations have been considerably altered with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani emerging stronger at the expense of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Musharraf had appointed Chaudhury the country’s 20th chief justice May 7, 2005 but fell out with him less than two years later and suspended him March 9, 2007.

This was after Chaudhury refused to go slow on his judicial activism by taking up issues like rising prices and privatisation.

Musharraf also made a presidential reference against Chaudhury on grounds of misconduct but the latter fought back and was reinstated July 20, 2007.

In October that year, Musharraf won a controversial re-election and the Supreme Court opened a hearing on its validity.

It was on the point of delivering a verdict that was expected to go against the president when Musharraf imposed an emergency Nov 3, 2007 to prevent this.

Chaudhury and the Supreme Court bench, as also some 60-other high court judges, refused to take fresh oath under the Provincial Constitutional Order (PCO) that Musharraf promulgated along with the emergency.

The wheel has now come full circle for Chaudhury.

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