Lawyers in Pakistan observe ‘Black Day’ on emergency anniversary

November 3rd, 2008 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafRawalpindi, Nov 3 (IANS) Lawyers across Pakistan boycotted courts and held protest demonstrations Monday to mark the first anniversary of the emergency imposed by former president Pervez Musharraf who had sacked 60 judges and banned private television channels and FM radios at one fell swoop. Deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, addressing a massive lawyers’ demonstration, said that Musharraf had imposed emergency as he was afraid of the growing judicial independence and wanted to curb the judiciary.

Chaudhry said that Musharraf had imposed emergency due to four pending cases in the Supreme Court.

“The first case was of a politician (former prime minister Nawaz Sharif) who was in exile, the second was Benazir Bhutto’s case in which she had pointed out 30 million missing voters, the third was Musharraf’s eligibility of contesting the presidential elections and the fourth was whether he (Musharraf) can keep two offices (of president and chief of army staff)… All these cases were pending in the Supreme Court and the rulers were afraid that the decision could go against them,” he told a huge gathering amid cheers and shouting of “Shame, shame”.

Justice Chaudhry termed the Nov 3 imposition of emergency as “a martial law” in the country. He said there was a difference in the Nov 3 act and previous martial laws. No assembly has endorsed the martial law enforced on Nov 3, he said and hoped the parliament will never endorse the steps taken by the dictator.

The deposed chief justice, who along with several other judges had taken oath of allegiance to Musharraf after the October 1999 military takeover, said: “This is very unfortunate that democracy was not allowed to function and courts had also played a role in this.”

He said that lawyers and civil society had launched a movement for supremacy of law and constitution on March 9, 2007.

“I am confident that the present assembly will not endorse this martial law,” said the deposed chief justice, adding the government, opposition, lawyers, politicians and other sections of society had realised that supremacy of law and the constitution is a must for the country.

He revealed that former premier Shaukat Aziz had conveyed to him then about Musharraf’s anger on a verdict given in the Pakistan Steel Mills case. He said he had replied that verdicts would be given according to the law and the constitution only.

He said the media had highlighted the verdict of the Steel Mills case in a positive manner due to which the credibility of the Supreme Court was restored.

The Pakistan Steel Mills was installed through funding by then USSR and sold at throw away prices. The privatization process was stopped on the apex court orders.

Justice Chaudhry said that the Supreme Court gave its verdict on July 20, 2007, after which the government’s hopes with the top court faded away. “I was conveyed through some friends that the rulers wanted to restore good ties with me,” he said, adding “I was also told that Musharraf wanted to meet me, but I turned down his request several times.”

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