Pakistan raises Supreme Court strength to 29

June 23rd, 2008 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, June 23 (IANS) Pakistan has raised the strength of its Supreme Court to 29 to accommodate the judges President Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency last November. The National Assembly Sunday approved the Rs.2.01 trillion budget for fiscal 2008-09 with the adoption of the Finance Bill 2008 that also increased the strength of Supreme Court judges from 16 to 29.

Though legislators of ruling coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) abstained from voting, “they did not oppose or support” clause 18 of the bill on raising the Supreme Court strength, The News noted Monday.

However, a voice of conscience was raised by (the party’s) Ayaz Amir, “who termed it as a mockery of parliament to put the clause pertaining to the strength of the judges in the Finance Bill,” the newspaper added.

Opposition members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) also abstained from voting on clause 18, with Attiya Inayatullah saying that her party had no objection to the restoration of the judges as well as to an increase in their strength, but it objected to this being effected through the Finance Bill.

“It was our party’s stance that the restoration of judges could only be effected through a constitutional amendment, so we will abstain from voting,” she maintained.

The treasury benches, however, approved clause 18 through a voice vote.

After the bill was passed, the PML-N’s Ayaz Amir, on a point of order, “came down hard on the government, saying that as the dictators in the country always made a mockery of the judiciary, the democratic government was also adopting the same attitude towards it”, The News said.

“We have made a mockery of parliament with such acts as we only talk to make parliament sovereign yet the actions do not match the words,” Amir maintained.

The restoration of the sacked judges, however, does not mean former chief justice Ifthikar Mohammad Chaudhry gets his job back. He will serve as just another judge of the court.

The issue had soured relations between the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that leads the coalition. After initially agreeing to the restoration of the judges, the PPP had backtracked, saying this would be done as part of a package to restore the constitution to what existed in 1973.

This prompted PML leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to pull his nine ministers out of the government even as the party remained in the coalition.

Pakistani lawyers had earlier this month staged a hugely successful Long March to Islamabad to demand the reinstatement of the sacked judges.

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