People voted against Musharraf’s emergency move: chief justice

February 21st, 2008 - 7:51 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb and Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 21 (IANS) Pakistan’s deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry may be out of sight, but his voice can still be heard. Despite being under house arrest, he addressed lawyers in two cities Thursday and asserted the people’s verdict was against the provisional constitution order (PCO) promulgated by President Pervez Musharraf. At 10.30 a.m., lawyers of the Karachi High Court Bar Association got together in the auditorium to hear a ‘mystery’ speaker. They burst into applause once they heard Justice Chaudhry live on telephone. His voice was transmitted to the audience, with a mobile phone carried to a microphone.

He spoke for over 35 minutes, frequently interspersed with clapping from the enthusiastic audience. Justice Chaudhry then spoke to the Lahore High Court Association conveying a similar message.

“The moment I am freed I will march to my office in the Supreme Court and assume my job,” a confident Chaudhry said, insisting he was still the constitutional and legal chief justice of Pakistan.

Justice Chaudhry appealed to the newly elected parliamentarians not to endorse the “illegal” steps taken by President Musharraf after he imposed emergency Nov 3.

“If these steps by an individual are endorsed by parliament, it will strengthen an individual and even a police officer will get decision of his choice from judges,” he said in his address to the Sindh High Court Bar Association.

Chaudhry and all other judges of the Supreme and high courts were dismissed through a presidential order Nov 3 last year when Musharraf imposed emergency, suspending the constitution and human rights in the country.

Later only those judges of the superior courts were allowed to take oath under the PCO who showed allegiance to President Musharraf. Since then Chaudhry and seven other judges have been under house arrest.

There were rumours Wednesday that Chaudhry and others were released after opposition parties defeated the candidates and parties backed by Musharraf but Chaudhry said he was still under arrest.

He said by authorizing the president to amend the constitution and dissolve assemblies, the previous parliament had, in fact, weakened the institutions.

He said the sacked judges can be restored by just an administrative order and no constitutional amendments were required for it.

“The judges can be restored by just an administrative order just like they were sacked,” said Justice Chaudhry.

Justice Chaudhary thanked the lawyers for continuing their movement to reinstate the deposed judges. He said the people of Pakistan would soon enjoy the fruits of the lawyers’ movement and claimed Monday election’s verdict was against the PCO.

Sindh High Court Bar Association honorary secretary Munir ur Rehman told IANS: “We had to keep the programme secret, otherwise it would have been stopped.”

Once the address ended, lawyers in Karachi tried to take out a rally from the high court premises, holding aloft placards with Justice Chaudhry’s photographs. But the police, brandishing batons and lobbing teargas shells, stopped them.

“Nearly 12-15 of our lawyers have been injured,” said Rehman, with television shots showing marquees being burned down and smoke from teargas shells.

In Lahore, the lawyers’ assembly was peaceful, with over 2,000 rallyists raising slogans against Musharraf.

Last year an eight-member Supreme Court bench, led by the chief justice, squashed the PCO and the declaration of emergency on the same day. But the army soon stormed the Supreme Court building, removed the chief justice and the seven judges, and put them under house arrest.

Under the previous constitution, there was not only no provision for an army chief to declare emergency, the National Assembly also had to validate the decision within 30 days.

Therefore, several legal experts felt that since the National Assembly did not give its approval to the emergency, there was no need for it to sit and decide on its removal.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan, who had organized the 2007 campaign to reinstate the chief justice and also filed a petition in the apex court Nov 2 to prevent declaration of the martial law, had also been put under house arrest soon after declaration of emergency.

Ahsan came out of his house Wednesday and addressed media persons in defiance of restrictions put on his movement.

He said if the new government did not reinstate the judges, lawyers would come to the national capital in a long march on March 9 and lay siege on the National Assembly. It was on March 9 last year that President Musharraf had suspended Justice Chaudhary, who was later restored to his position by a 13-member SC bench.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had made the restoration of judges one of its main demands in the election campaign and also made it its main condition for a coalition with the largest party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

But, PPP has not yet articulated its position on the release of the judges and their reinstatement to the former positions as well as the status of the present judges who took oath under the PCO.

PPP leader Asif Zardari has repeatedly stated that the newly elected parliament will take a decision on the restoration of the judiciary.

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