It is time to examine the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s record as the head of Pakistan’s judiciary.
During CJ’s 20-month tenure the backlog of pending cases in Supreme Court of Pakistan was reduced from 38,000 cases to around 10,000
Free legal aid was provided to the unrepresented jail petitioners, who could not afford to hire the services of a lawyer.
Additional posts of research officers were created with the aim of improving the efficiency and performance of the courts
Steps were taken to curtail corruption among the court staff by banning the entry of munshies/clerks into offices.
The CJ established a Human Rights Cell within the Supreme Court premises to process citizen complaints. This forum soon became known for providing expeditious and inexpensive relief to members of the general public.
To his credit the CJ worked on a large number of human rights violations - from complaints and letters which he received from aggrieved persons and from press reports – by ordering the relevant authorities concerned to obey the law of the land. These suo moto actions resulted in provision of quick relief to the common man.
His only weaknesses it is believed was a heightened degree of haughtiness and a weakness for fancy official cars, but then these are very common failings among officialdom in Pakistan, a country where every general is driven in a Mercedes.
In the CJ’s defence it ought to be said that the post of Chief Justice is comparable to that of his constitutional associates - the prime minister and president. And for my part I would not begrudge any chief justice a fleet of Rolls Royces if in return he improved the rule of law and the quality of justice in Pakistan.
There is also now a Musharraf-orchestrated complaint that the CJ’s son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar was appointed to a government post that he was unqualified to hold. But then as The News points out:
there is no evidence of any formal request from the deposed CJ seeking any favours from the government for his son or that Justice Iftikhar in any way had pressurized the authorities to do the ‘undoables’ for his son-Dr Arsalan Iftikhar… If Arsalan’s case is probed, it gives a much more serious charge sheet against the government authorities than the already charge sheeted Justice Iftikhar.
Now to the amazement of most Pakistani citizens we discover that our Chief Justice was summoned to and later confined in the Army House, Rawlapindi, like some recalcitrant schoolboy and browbeaten for over five hours by Musharraf and his minions - including Shaukat Aziz and ‘two senior PML(Q) party members’ – who all badgered him to tender his resignation. The CJ resisted these bullyboy tactics and refused to bow to this pressure.
Some seven hours later the CJ, it appears, was reluctantly released, but when he tried to return to his office at the Supreme Court, he was stopped on the road by a police superintendent and forcibly escorted by an official posse which drove him directly to his residence. By doing so, the regime unwittingly revealed to all that a police superintendent can have more legal powers in Musharraf’s Pakistan than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
And so to the present. While there has been no official order of ‘arrest’ or ‘detention’, the CJ continues to be detained in his residence, which remains surrounded by police. His phones have been cut and he has been prevented from communicating with anyone, including members of his family.
In the meantime Musharraf and his underlings continue to blather on about the unquestioned legality of his action. As the lawyer Anees Jillani points out in today’s Dawn that under articles 209 (4) and 209 (6) of our much tampered Constitution:
The president, if he comes to know about a judge’s alleged misconduct through information received from the SJC or from any other source, can ask the Council to “inquire into the matter” to determine whether the judge is guilty of the charge…After inquiring into the matter, the Council shall report to the president as to whether the judge has been found to be guilty of misconduct, and it shall be the Council that will advise the president as to whether the judge should be removed from office. If so advised, the president may remove the judge.
Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has stated that the detained CJ is now under tremendous pressure of intelligence agency officials who are demanding his resignation.
According to told Dawn:
[Nisar Ali Khan] said the Chief Justice House was swarming with intelligence officials and the CJP, along with his family members, were confined to one room. He said even his house in Quetta had also been sealed.
In your Blogger’s view Musharraf arrogantly believed that he would have no difficulty in getting the CJ’s resignation. Sadly for him the CJ has proved to be man of sturdier character.
Having failed to get the CJ to resign the dictator has sailed into uncharted constitutional waters by sending a reference against the CJ to the Supreme Judicial Council after having unlawfully detained him.
Unfortunately the judges of the Supreme Court have a poor track record of standing by beleaguered colleagues. We will soon see what stuff the present lot of judges are made of, particular those currently sitting on the Supreme Judicial Council
If Musharraf can brutalise and unlawfully detain the constitutional head of Pakistan’s judicial system just imagine what he can do any ordinary citizen of the country.
God help us!
My next Blog will be about Musharraf's possible motives for trying to sack the CJ