There is much talk of an embattled and defeated man in the Presidency. The chief justice has been restored. The Zardari government has surrendered, it is claimed. So why has Zardari's smile gotten wider?
As night fell on March 15, the long march was making history. The people of Pakistan refused to be cowed by lathis or unending tear gas. Senior police officials refused to obey orders from Salmaan Taseer's government to use deadly force against unarmed citizens. Every hurdle on the road to Islamabad was simply melting away in face of the Black Coats' revolution.
However, on announcement of the restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice, the revolution has retreated. The Long March and dharna have been called off by lawyers and politicians. President Zardari's government is taking credit for fulfilling the promise of Benazir Bhutto.
Prime Minister Gillani's announced on state television that Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry will be restored as chief justice on March 21, only after the retirement of the incumbent chief justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar. He reiterated that Mr Zardari had been unable to fulfil the promise of restoration because Abdul Hameed Dogar was already chief justice and that there could not be two chief justices. Prime Minister Gillani also committed that all other deposed judges will stand restored, but notably there was no mention of restoring the Nov 2, 2007, judiciary. In fact, Gillani clearly stated that the restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry was fulfilment of President Zardari's pledge that the term of any existing judge will not be disturbed.
Musharraf's abettor in the Nov 3 assault on the judiciary, Abdul Hameed Dogar, will get an honourable exit. The judges appointed by Musharraf after Nov 3 will continue in office. Those who took oath under the PCO, despite the clear Order of the Supreme Court on Nov 3, 2007, not to do so, will continue "undisturbed," as will the recently appointed judges, loyalists with which President Zardari has packed the superior courts.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Ramday in the Supreme Court, Justice Sharif in the Lahore High Court and Justice Mushir Alam in the Sindh High Court, even if one includes those honourable judges who were deposed on Nov 3 and reinstated after repeating their oath under the Constitution, will be a minority in the superior courts of Pakistan and thus rendered ineffective.
The illegal actions of Nov 3 will continue to be recognised as validated according to the decision of Abdul Hameed Dogar in the Tikka Mohammed Iqbal case. According to Senate chairman Farooq Naek, Article 270 AAA, the product of the signature of a dictator, stays. This is also the argument of Malik Muhammad Qayyum, the last attorney general, who claims that the illegal acts of Nov 3 continue to be protected by Article 270 AAA because it has been validated by the PCO Judiciary. Thus the guarantees given by President Zardari not to touch General Musharraf or his illegal actions of Nov 3 will remain undisturbed.
The president's powers under the 17th Amendment will remain. The presidential form of government introduced by General Musharraf suits the present incumbent fine. Any move opposing it can be referred to the dustbin of high powered committees.
Zardari's real political adversary, the PML-N may be the biggest loser. Duped thrice before, they have once again fallen for an impotent promise. They were on the road to vindication, but decided to make a u-turn. The two Sharifs will remain at the mercy of a decision in a review by the same PCO Bench which disqualified them. Even if the PML-N government is restored in Punjab, without Shahbaz Sharif, it will have a tough time coping with a belligerent Salmaan Taseer.
Therefore, standing tall in the presidential palace on March 21 after hosting a farewell banquet for Abdul Hameed Dogar, President Zardari can confidently say that had the last laugh.
The lawyers of Pakistan will be left in a position no better than Saadat Hasan Manto's Ustaad Mangu. "The constables took Ustad Mangu to the police station. On the way and at the police station, he kept yelling, The new constitution…the new constitution. But no one understood what he was referring to. What are you shouting about…what new laws and rights are you shouting about…the laws are the same old ones… And Ustad Mangu was locked up in a cell." (Saadat Hasan Manto, New Constitution).
The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court. Email: zfebrahim@ gmail.com
(The News, Tuesday, March 17, 2009)
Daily Express, 17 March 2009
LAHORE: Lawyers’ leader Aitzaz Ahsan on Monday hoped that the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will neither hear the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case, nor review the Sharifs’ disqualification petition as required under the parameters of judicial impartiality.
Aitzaz said that the beneficiaries of NRO were part of the movement against Justice Iftikhar and ‘we hope he would not hear the case against NRO himself in the larger interest of justice.’
Justice Iftikhar had also not heard the case against Musharraf’s second presidential election, he added.
Ahsan said that the reinstatement of deposed judges, including CJP Iftikhar, has fulfilled the promise that late Benazir Bhutto had made to the nation, albeit with a great delay. He also hoped the Pakistan People’s Party government would extend all cooperation to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry
Congratulating the legal fraternity and political activists, he said: ‘I congratulate all those who suffered financial and personal losses in the two-years of the movement, including the media.’
He hoped Justice Iftikhar would not continue the policies of what he called Dogar’s court, and deliver justice irrespective of all personal grudges. To another query about the review petition against Sharif brothers’ disqualification, the lawyers’ leader said the review petition would only be heard by the judges who gave the disqualification verdict as per the SC rules and Chief Justice Iftikhar could not hear it.
He also dispelled the impression that the restored judges would have to take a fresh oath of their offices.
Official sources told DawnNews that three Supreme Court judges would be reinstated. They are Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday and Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed.
With his return, Justice Javed Iqbal will become the senior most judge of the apex court. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is due to retire in 2013. The present chief justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar, is due for retirement on March 21.
The three judges to be restored in Lahore High Court are Justice Khwaja Mohammad Sharif, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman. Justice Khwaja Sharif, being the senior most, will assume office as the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court.
In Sindh High Court, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Maqbool Baqir would be reinstated. Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan is the only judge being considered for reinstatement in Peshawar High Court.
The notification to restore deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and other judges will mention 10 judges’ names and not those who had already been reappointed by the government.
Sources said the restored judges may not have to take a fresh oath as they were likely to be restored through an executive order.
Sources in the Supreme Court say the current judges hope that Justice Chaudhry will restrain himself from confrontation with PCO judges and point out that the November 3, 2007, judgement given by a seven-member bench led by Justice Iftikhar against taking oath under the PCO, has been violated by three judges of that bench themselves.