Cast your vote in favour of Pakistan and Boycott “General” Elections 2008 and support the cause for justice in Pakistan.
The reasons to boycot elections:
>The present setup is illegal
>The judiciary is not free (no one trusts the PCO judiciary of the dictator)
>The president is illegal
>Taking part in the elections (even voting) will be like supporting the constitutional violations
>Real Constitution not present
>The elections are arranged to form a setup which will continue the BUSH WAR against Islam and Muslims.
“A system which does not have the concept of justice should be thrown on the face of the people running it”
How worse can things go?
Our CJ is forced to clear his position in the world because our so called President Dictator is maligning him all over the world.
BUT for CJP Sahab
“Sir you are giving justifications to the wrong people, they are the ones (especially Rice) who supported Musharraf’s actions from the back and its part of their ‘Do More’ policy.”
Keep Your spirits high , Allah will help you and us.
*AN OPEN LETTER TO:*
The President of the European Parliament,
The President of France,
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,
Ms. Condaleeza Rice,
Secretary of State,
United States of America,
Professor Klaus Schwab,
World Economic Forum,
All through their respective Ambassodors, High Commissioners and
I am the Chief Justice of Pakistan presently detained in my residence
Since November 3, 2007 pursuant to some verbal, and unspecified, order passed by General Musharraf.
I have found it necessary to write to you, and others, because during
His recent visits to Brussels, Paris, Davos and London General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings. In addition he has widely distributed, among those whom he has met, a slanderous document (hereinafter the Document)
entitled: "PROFILE OF THE FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN". I might
let this go unresponded but the Document, unfortunately, is such an
outrage that, with respect, it is surprising that a person claiming to be head of state should fall to such depths as to circulate such calumny against the Chief Justice of his own country.
In view of these circumstances I have no option but to join issue with
General Musharraf and to put the record straight. Since he has voiced
His views on several public occasions so as to reach out to the public at large, I also am constrained to address your excellencies in an Open Letter to rebut the allegations against me.
At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words "claiming
the head of state". That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf's
constitutional term ended on November 15, 2007. His claim to a further
thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme
Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a Bench
eleven learned judges of the Supreme Court that the General arrested a
majority of those judges in addition to me on November 3, 2007. He thus
himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that
Besides arresting the Chief Justice and judges (can there have been a
greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the Constitution and to
the entire judiciary (even the High Courts) of all independent judges.
only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to "validate"
whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and
order passed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007.
Meantime I and my colleagues remain in illegal detention. With me are
detained my wife and three of my young children, all school-going and
special child. Such are the conditions of our detention that we cannot
step out on to the lawn for the winter sun because that space is
by police pickets. Barbed wire barricades surround the residence and
phone lines are cut. Even the water connection to my residence has been
periodically turned off. I am being persuaded to resign and to forego
office, which is what I am not prepared to do.
I request you to seek first hand information of the barricades and of
detention, as that of my children, from your Ambassador/High
Commissioner/representative in Pakistan. You will get a report of such
circumstances as have never prevailed even in medieval times. And these
conditions put in place, in the twenty-first century, by a Government
Needless to say that the Constitution of Pakistan contains no provision
its suspension, and certainly not by the Chief of Army Staff. Nor can
amended except in accordance with Articles 238 and 239 which is by
Parliament and not an executive or military order. As such all actions
by General Musharraf on and after November 3 are illegal and ultra
Constitution. That is why it is no illusion when I describe myself as
Chief Justice even though I am physically and forcibly incapacitated by
state apparatus under the command of the General. I am confident that
consequence of the brave and unrelenting struggle continued by the
and the civil society, the Constitution will prevail.
However, in the meantime, General Musharraf has launched upon a
initiative to defame and slander me. Failing to obtain my willing
he has become desperate. The eight-page Document is the latest in this
Before I take up the Document itself let me recall that the General
ousted me from the Supreme Court on March 9 last year while filing an
indictment (in the form of a Reference under Article 209 of the
Constitution) against me. According to the General the Reference had
prepared after a thorough investigation and comprehensively contained
the charges against me. I had challenged that Reference and my ouster
the Supreme Court. On July 20 a thirteen member Bench unanimously
down the action of the General as illegal and unconstitutional. I was
*The Reference was thus wholly shattered and all the charges contained
therein trashed.* These cannot now be regurgitated except in contempt
Supreme Court. Any way, since the Document has been circulated by no
person than him I am constrained to submit the following for your kind
consideration in rebuttal thereof:
*The Document* is divided into several heads but the allegations
in it *can essentially be divided into two categories*: those
that were contained in the Reference and those that were not.
Quite obviously, those that are a repeat from the Reference hold no
these have already been held by the Supreme Court to not be worth the
they were written in. In fact, the Supreme Court found that the
submitted against me by the Government was so obviously fabricated and
incorrect, that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the
Government Rs. 100,000 (a relatively small amount in dollar terms, but
unheard of sum with respect to Court Sanction in Pakistan) for filing
clearly false and malicious documents, as well as revoking the license
practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents. Indeed,
with the prospect of having filed clearly falsified documents against
the Government's attorneys, including the Attorney General, took a most
dishonorable but telling approach. Each one, in turn, stood before the
Supreme Court and disowned the Government's Reference, and stated they
not reviewed the evidence against me before filing it with Court. They
filed a formal request to the Court to withdraw the purported evidence,
tendered an unconditional apology for filing such a scandalous and
documents. So baseless and egregious were the claims made by General
Musharraf that on July 20th, 2007, the full Supreme Court for the first
in Pakistan's history, ruled unanimously against a sitting military
and reinstated me honorably to my post.
Despite having faced these charges in open court, must I now be
with those same charges by General Musharraf in world capitals, while I
remain a prisoner and unable to speak in my defense?
There are, of course, a second set of charges. These were not contained
the Reference and are now being bandied around by the General at every
I forcefully and vigorously deny every single one of them. The truth of
these "new" allegations can be judged from the fact that they all
date to the period before the reference was filed against me last
none of them was listed in the already bogus charge sheet.
If there were any truth to these manufactured charges, the Government
have included them in the reference against me. God knows they threw in
everything including the kitchen sink into that scurrilous 450 page
document, only to have it thrown out by the entire Supreme Court after
month open trial.
The charges against me are so transparently baseless that General
Musharraf's regime has banned the discussion of my situation and the
in the broadcast media. This is because the ridiculous and flimsy
the charges is self-evident whenever an opportunity is provided to
Instead, the General only likes to recite his libel list from a rostrum
in gathering where there is no opportunity for anyone to respond.
Incidentally, the General maligns me in the worst possible way at every
opportunity. That is the basis for the Document he has distributed. But
has not just deposed me from the Judiciary. He has also fired more than
of the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan – nearly 50 judges in all --
with me. They have also been arrested and detained.
What are the charges against them? Why should they be fired and
I am the corrupt judge? Moreover even my attorneys Aitzaz Ahsan,
Malik, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd were also arrested on November
Malik alone has been released but only because both his kidneys
a result of prison torture
Finally, as to the Document, it also contains some further allegations
described as *"Post-Reference Conduct"* that is attributed to me under
various heads. This would mean only those allegedly 'illegal' actions
claimed to have been taken by me *after* March 9, 2007. These are under
heads given below and replied to as under:
1. *"Participation in SJC (Supreme Judicial Council) Proceedings": *
*(a) Retaining 'political lawyers': Aitzaz Ahsan and Zammurrad Khan:*
It is alleged that I gave a political colour to my defence by engaging
political lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zamurrad Khan both Pakistan Peoples'
Party Members of the National Assembly. The answer is simple.
I sought to engage the best legal team in the country. Mr. Ahsan is of
course an MNA (MP), but he is also the top lawyer in Pakistan. For that
reference may be made simply to the ranking of Chambers and Partners
Such is his respect in Pakistan's legal landscape that he was elected
President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan by one of
widest margins in the Association's history.
All high profile personalities have placed their trust in his talents.
has thus been the attorney for Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif, (even
though he was an opponent of the latter) Presidential candidate
Musharraf) Justice Wajihuddin, sports star and politician Imran Khan,
Speakers, Ministers, Governors, victims of political vendetta, and also
internationally acclaimed gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai, to mention only
Equally important, Barrister Ahsan is a man of integrity who is known
withstand all pressures and enticements. That is a crucial factor in
an attorney when one's prosecutor is the sitting military ruler, with
enourmous monetary and coercive resources at his disposal.
Mr. Zamurrad Khan is also a recognized professional lawyer, a former
Secretary of the District Bar Rawalpindi, and was retained by Mr.
Ahsan to assist him in the case. Mr. Khan has been a leading light of
Lawyers' Movement for the restoration of the deposed judiciary and has
bravely faced all threats and vilification.
Finally, surely I am entitled to my choice of lawyers and not that of
*(b) "Riding in Mr. Zafarullah Jamali (former Prime Minister)'s car":*
How much the Document tries to deceive is apparent from the allegation
I willingly rode in Mr. Jamali's car for the first hearing of the case
against me on March 13 (as if that alone is an offence). Actually the
Government should have been ashamed of itself for creating the
that forced me to take that ride.
Having been stripped of official transport on the 9th March (my
were removed from my house by the use of fork lifters), I decided to
the one-mile to the Supreme Court. Along the way I was molested and
manhandled, my hair was pulled and neck craned in the full blaze of the
media, by a posse of policemen under the supervision of the Inspector
General of Police. (A judicial inquiry, while I was still deposed,
established this fact). In order to escape the physical assault I took
refuge with Mr. Jamali and went the rest of the journey on his car.
of taking action against the police officials for manhandling the Chief
Justice it is complained that I was on the wrong!
*(c) "Creating a political atmosphere":*
Never did I instigate or invite any "political atmosphere". I never
addressed the press or any political rally. I kept my lips sealed even
extreme provocation from the General and his ministers who were
on a daily basis. I maintained a strict judicial silence. I petitioned
Supreme Court and won. That was my vindication.
1. *"Country wide touring and Politicising the Issue":*
The Constitution guarantees to all citizens free movement throughout
Pakistan. How can this then be a complaint?
By orders dated March 9 and 15 (both of which were found to be without
lawful authority by the Court) I had been sent of "forced leave". I
neither perform any judicial or administrative functions as the Chief
Justice of Pakistan. I was prevented not only from sitting in court but
from access to my own chamber by the force of arms under orders of the
General. (All my papers were removed, even private documents).
The only function as 'a judge on forced leave' that I could perform was
address and deliver lectures to various Bar Associations. I accepted
invitations. They are peppered all over Pakistan. I had to drive to
towns as all these are not linked by air. On the way the people of
did, indeed, turn out in their millions, often waiting from dawn to
from dusk to dawn, to greet me. But I never addressed them even when
insisted that I do. I never spoke to the press. I sat quietly in my
without uttering a word. All this is on the record as most journeys
covered by the media live and throughout.
I spoke only to deliver lectures on professional and constitutional
to the Bar Associations. Transcripts of every single one of my
available. Every single word uttered by me in those addresses conforms
the stature, conduct and non-political nature of the office of the
Justice. There was no politics in these whatsoever. I did not even
my present status or the controversy or the proceedings before the
or the Court, not even the Reference. Not even once.
All the persons named in the Document under this head are lawyers and
members of the reception committees in various towns and Bar
1. *Political Leaders Calling on CJP residence:*
It is alleged that I received political leaders while I was deposed. It
on the record of the Supreme Judicial Council itself that I was
after being deposed on March 9. The only persons allowed to meet me
those cleared by the Government. One was a senior political leader.
else was allowed to see me, initially not even my lawyers. How can I be
blamed for whomsoever comes to my residence?
Had I wanted to politicize the issue I would have gone to the Press or
invited the media. I did not. I had recourse to the judicial process
reinstatement and won. The General lost miserably in a fair and
contest. That is my only fault.
Hence the conclusion drawn by the General that charges had been proved
against me 'beyond doubt' is absolutely contrary to the facts and wide
the mark. It is a self-serving justification of the eminently illegal
*of firing and arresting judges of superior courts* under the garb of
Emergency (read Martial Law) when the Constitution was 'suspended' and
'restored' later with drastic and illegal 'amendments' grafted into it.
The Constitution cannot be amended except by the two Houses of
and by a two-thirds majority in each House. That is the letter of the
How can one man presume or arrogate to himself that power?
Unfortunately the General is grievously economical with the truth (I
from using the word 'lies') when he says that the charges against me
'investigated and verified beyond doubt'. As explained above, these had
fact been rubbished by the Full Court Bench of the Supreme Court of
against which judgment the government filed no application for review.
What the General has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the
world. In squashing the judiciary for his own personal advantage and
else he has usurped the space of civil and civilized society. If
norms of justice will not be allowed to operate then that space will,
inevitably, be occupied by those who believe in more brutal and instant
justice: the extremists in the wings. Those are the very elements the
seems to be pitted against. Those are the very elements the actions of
General are making way for.
Some western governments are emphasizing the unfolding of the
process in Pakistan. That is welcome, if it will be fair. But, and in
case, can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?
Remember, independent judges and judicial processes preceded full
by several hundred years. Moreover, which judge in Pakistan today can
independent who has before his eyes the fate and example of his own
Justice: detained for three months along with his young children. What
the children's crime, after all?
There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there
no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 is
Whatever the will of some desperate men the struggle of the valiant
and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up.
Let me also assure you that I would not have written this letter
General's unbecoming onslaught. That has compelled me to clarify
as my past will testify, I am not given into entering into public, even
private, disputes. But the allegations against me have been so wild, so
wrong and so contrary to judicial record, that I have been left with no
option but to put the record straight. After all, a prisoner must also
have his say. And if the General's hand-picked judges, some living next door to my prison home, have not had the courage to invoke the power of 'habeas corpus' these last three months, what other option do I have? Many leaders of the world and the media may choose to brush the situation under the carpet out of love of the General. But that will not be.
Nevertheless, let me also reassure you that I continue in my resolve
not to preside any Bench which will be seized of matters pertaining to the personal interests of General Musharraf after the restoration of the Constitution and the judges, which, God willing, will be soon.
Finally, I leave you with the question: Is there a precedent in
history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan's four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a 'charm offensive' of western capitals and one whom the west supports.
I am grateful for your attention. I have no other purpose than to clear
My name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the
calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue it from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic. After all, the edifice of an independent judicial system alone stands on the middle ground between these two extremes. If the edifice is destroyed by the one, the ground may be taken over by the other. That is what is happening in Pakistan. Practitioners of rough and brutal justice will be welcomed in spaces from where the practitioners of more refined norms of justice and balance have been made to abdicate.
I have enormous faith that the Constitution and justice will soon
Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry,
Chief Justice of Pakistan,
imprisoned in the Chief Justice's House,
LAHORE: The lawyers, civil society members, human rights activists and politicians on Thursday held a joint protest rally from Aiwan-e-Adl to the Punjab Assembly building, demanding the restoration of the deposed judges and release of the detained lawyers from the government.
The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) held their general house meetings at their respective buildings and took out rallies. They shouted slogans against the government and in favour of the deposed judges and detained leaders – Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir A Malik, Tariq Mehmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd.
Mrs Aitzaz Ahsan and activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Tehreek-e-Khaksaar (TK), Women Action Forum (WAF) and Pakistan Medic Association (PMA) also joined the lawyers’ rally. The PTI, JI and TK supporters were holding their party flags, while others were holding placards and banners inscribed with their demands for the restoration of deposed judges. One of the posters read: Aye Sitam Gar Tum Nay Socha Hay Kabhi, Tujh Say Sari Khudai Tang Hay Kiyon? (Oh oppressor! Have you ever thought why everyone is annoyed with you?)
Punjab PTI president Ahsen Rasheed led his party protesters, Dr Zahid Muhiuddin and Dr Yasmin Rashid were leading the PMA activists and Shahtaj Qizalbash was leading the WAF protesters. The lawyers removed the last poster of the Pakistan Muslim League–Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), hanging with a lamppost on The Mall, and set it ablaze. All the banners and posters of PML-Q candidates had been removed during the last Thursday’s rally.
After their general house meeting, the LHCBA lawyers – led by their president Ahsen Bhoon – joined the LBA rally at GPO Chowk, taken out from Aiwan-e-Adl in the leadership of Manzoor Qadir. Then the lawyers held a joint march towards Charing Cross. After remaining there for some time, the protesters dispersed peacefully.
General house meeting: Earlier, addressing the LHCBA general house meeting, various speakers stressed the need to ensure the boycott at the Lahore High Court, according to the call of the Pakistan Bar Council. Advocate Ahsan Wyne appealed to the politicians to join the lawyers’ movement for the independence of the judiciary.
Former LHCBA president Ahmed Awais said the judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) were job seekers and nothing more. The lawyers will not recognise them as judges, he said, adding “They have committed treason by betraying Pakistan and its constitution.” He urged the lawyers to ensure the complete boycott of the courts.
Supreme Court Bar Association secretary Amin Javed urged the lawyers to maintain unity and said some negative elements wanted to sabotage their movement. “This movement is not only for the restoration of the judiciary but also to save the country from disintegration. We are not afraid of anything, and are ready to face starvation. But we will not back away from our movement.” The LHCBA president stressed the need to form an independent parliament to get the deposed judges restored.
Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Qazi Hussain Ahmad said that All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) would organise public gatherings across the country from January 28 against the February 18 elections.
Addressing party gatherings at Pabbi and Kheshgi towns near Noshera, he also said that they would launch full fledge campaign against what he termed the fraud elections and create awareness among the masses to stay away from the polls process.
He said that the Election Commission, caretaker government, polling staff and voter rolls were all under the influence of the government. In this situation, the Jamaat chief said free polls could not be expected. He further said that the government to be formed as a result of the fraud elections would not be able to overcome the challenges being faced by the country.
Qazi Hussain was of the view that the government, by declaring Pakistan a frontline state and has brought the war of US interest to the country.
For the deposed judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and their chief, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, it was an Eidul Azha like none in the lives — locked up inside their houses with their families.
When they came out of their houses on Friday morning to go to Eid prayers, Justices Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Nasirul Mulk, Sardar Raza Khan, Shakirullah Jan and Chaudhry Ejaz found the gates locked, sources close to the judges told Dawn.
Even their children and servants were not allowed to leave for the prayers by the police force which has kept them isolated in the Judicial Colony since November 3, when emergency and a Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) were proclaimed.
Arsalan, the elder son of the deposed chief justice, was manhandled when he insisted on going out for the prayers.
This treatment was meted out to the judges and their families even though security officials had informed them overnight that could offer prayers at Faisal Mosque after a statement by the interior ministry that the judges would be free to move during the three-day Eid holidays, the sources said.
Dozens of lawyers and representatives of civil society who had gathered at the police barricade, set up near Balochistan House, to receive the judges and accompany them to the mosque were infuriated when they did not arrive there.
Anti-riot police present behind the barricade, reinforced by a barbed wire, blocked their way when they tried to proceed to the residences of the besieged judges.
They raised pro-judges and anti-government slogans and decided to offer their Eid prayer at the very site under the gaze of the anti-riot police.
Even Justice (retired) Qazi Mohammad Farooq, the Chief Election Commissioner, was not allowed to visit his brother judges though he lives in the same enclave. Worse, he had to argue with the police to enter the enclave on returning from offering Eid prayers in Rawalpindi.
“How can he conduct free and fair elections when his authority to enter his own house is being challenged by the government and personnel of law enforcement agencies,” commented one among the lawyers at the barricade.
Retired Judge Rana Bhagwandas had to celebrate his religious festival of Diwali in similar circumstances on November 10.
Meanwhile Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and Justice (retired) Tariq Mehmud active in the lawyers’ movement, who were freed of house arrest for three days to celebrate Eid were arrested at night after the very first day.
Our Attock correspondent adds: The deposed chief justice, meanwhile, conveyed Eid greeting to the lawyers fraternity and civil society activists of Attock, who specially visited his residence in the federal capital on Friday, but were not allowed by the law enforcing agencies to meet him.
A local senior lawyer and member Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Advocate Sheikh Ahsanuddin, said that a special Eid message was conveyed by the deposed CJ to him by telephone on Sunday.
Mr Ahsan quoted the deposed CJ as saying that he and other fellow judges had decided all the cases purely on merit to provide relief to the masses. Justice Iftikhar said that the morale of all the judges, who did not take oath under the PCO, was high and they were not worried about any of their past decisions, Advocate Ahsan said.
Mr Ahsan said that deposed chief justice expressed concern over keeping him away from the lawyers, civil society members and other well wishers on the occasion of Eidul Azha, which was condemnable, unethical and worst violation of basic human rights.
“However, I am thankful to everyone, who arrived from different parts of the country at his residence to share their sympathies with him on Eid day,” Mr Iftikhar said.
He also thanked the people and lawyers for supporting him and other judges against their forced removal and the backing he received during the judicial crisis. However, Justice Iftikhar urged the lawyers and civil society activists to speed up their struggle, Mr Ahsan said.
Sheikh Ahsan said that the deposed CJ was very much worried about the health of former SCBA president Munir A Malik, who fell seriously ill during his detention. He also condemned the re-arrest of SCBA President Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood.
Sh Ahsan said he assured the deposed CJ that like other parts of the country, lawyers of Attock district will continue their protest till his and other judge’s reinstatement.
Online adds: President Pervez Musharraf on Friday offered Eid prayers at Faisal mosque where the congregation included members of caretaker cabinet, former parliamentarians, civil servants and hundreds of people belonging to all walks of life.
The president prayed to Allah Almighty to help the country in meeting the challenges, particularly the threats from extremism and terrorism. He sought Allah’s blessings for bringing unity and solidarity to the nation.
Note: After the so called restoration of the constitution all the non-pco judges are reinstated automatically because the changes made in the constitution by the Dictator Musharraf are not legal as his PCO was.
Go! Dictatorship Go!
|ISLAMABAD: Genuine Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was stopped at the exit gate of his official residence, when he was going to meet two other genuine non-pce judges in his neighbourhood.Iftikhar, who is under strict house-detention on Sunday, was leaving his home to see-off his neighbours and office fellows, Justice Rana Bhagwandas and Justice Ghulam Rabbani.
Justice Rana Bhagwandas and Justice Ghulam Rabbni on Sunday morning vacated their official abodes and left for their native towns in Sindh. Police and other security officials deployed at Judges’ Enclave after stopping Chaudhry locked-up his residence from outside by putting locks on gates. Iftikhar Ch is house-arrested since Nov 3 when Chief of the Army Staff enforced State of Emergency and issued PCO.
Pakistan’s emergency not yet over
By Beena Sarwar
KARACHI – President Pervez Musharraf’s lifting of emergency rule over Pakistan and restoration of the constitution is insufficient to put the country on the path to democracy, say civil-rights activists.
For one thing, there is the unprecedented situation created by most of the country’s higher judiciary refusing to take an oath under Musharraf’s Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) of November 3 that imposed the state of emergency. Anti-press laws and restrictions on the electronic media remain. And last, but not least, is Musharraf himself, elected as president for the next five years while still in army uniform, by an outgoing assembly.
The judges who refused to take oath under the PCO may “have ceased to be judges” according to caretaker Law Minister Afzal Haider, but many of them refuse to accept this position. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the majority of judges of the Supreme Court and the four provincial High Courts refused to legitimize a PCO. The stance of these “non-PCO judges” is also unprecedented: they still consider themselves to be the rightful judges.
Ordinary citizens have taken the lead from the “peaceful defiance” of the judges, symbolized by the deposed chief justice of the supreme court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest in his official residence since November 3.
Many lawyers support this position. The day after the imposition of martial law, lawyers in Karachi began sending out cell phone text messages proclaiming that non-PCO chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmed of the Sindh High Court “is our chief justice. All judges continue to hold office. We do not recognize [the new chief justice sworn in that day]“.
Several of the deposed judges are still in their official residences. When Justice M A Shahid Siddiqui of the Lahore High Court on November 30 received a letter from the Lahore High Court Registrar dated November 16, requesting him to vacate his official residence, he issued a notice to the registrar. Terming the letter “an attempt to intimidate and over-awe judges who have not surrendered to the chief of army staff [Musharraf],” he wrote: “I, therefore, as a sitting judge of the Lahore High Court direct the registrar of this court to explain as to why and at whose instance he issued this letter asking me to vacate my official residence. The reply shall be submitted within a month.”
The exchange triggered another chain of events that proved most embarrassing to the government. Students and lawyers began holding vigil outside Siddiqui’s residence. Many stayed outside all night in the chill of the Lahore winter, including the well-known activists and lawyers Asma Jahangir and Hina Jillani, along with a host of other high-profile advocates.
“We will continue to hold vigil outside Justice Siddiqui’s house,” said Hamid Khan, former president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Despite threats from police, activists and lawyers rotated shifts around the clock for several days to prevent Siddiqui’s eviction.
The saga ended when Siddiqui, a heart patient, had to be rushed to hospital with chest pains. Late that night, police arrested about a dozen lawyers and students holding vigil outside his residence. They were released from prison after a few days and charges against them withdrawn. Siddiqui is still in the hospital, and his family is still in their official residence.
On December 10 – International Human Rights Day, observed by Pakistani lawyers, civil-society organizations and human-rights groups as a “black day” – deposed Sindh High Court chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmed took the position that he could not comment on the PCO because his comments might be misconstrued as a judicial pronouncement “because I am still the chief justice of the high court”.
Meanwhile, journalists hold that the lifting of emergency rule is meaningless for the media unless the government withdraws the amended Registration of Printing and Publication Ordinance, 2002 and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority that continue to be used against the independent media.
Mazhar Abbas, general secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, noted that the closure of even one or two private television channels (Geo and Royal TV) is a “violation of Article 19 of the constitution, which provides freedom of speech and expression and freedom of the press. If this article has been restored then why have these channels not been allowed to resume transmission?”
“The continued ban on TV anchors, talk shows and live call-ins has restricted TV channels from free coverage of elections,” he said. “It is also a violation of citizens’ rights to speech as provided in the constitution.”
Musharraf pushed through six more amendments in the constitution through executive orders on Friday, a day before lifting the emergency, revoking the PCO and restoring the constitution. His first act after restoring the constitution was to swear in new members of the Supreme Court.
For many in Pakistan, the fact that Musharraf was elected as president “while still in army uniform by an assembly that had completed its term and had no mandate to elect him for another five years”, as one activist put it, de-legitimizes his office.
A Lahore High Court advocate, Asad Jamal, questioned his restoration of the constitution, terming it meaningless, given the over a dozen amendments that Musharraf has pushed through over the past month that provide immunity to himself and his actions. “He has destroyed the character of the constitution,” said Jamal. “He will make sure that there is no need to ratify these amendments in Parliament, unless he is sure of the requisite two-thirds majority.”
But getting Musharraf out of the equation will not dent the military-backed system he represents. “As long as the military continues to run the show, bankrolled and supported by Washington for its own short-term interests in ‘the war on terror’, and as long as Pakistani politicians continue to collude with the system without addressing the real issues of poverty, unemployment and education, Pakistan will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis,” one analyst said, requesting anonymity.
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